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BENNO LOEWY HLIBRARY
BEQUEATHED TO CORNELL UNIVERSITY
Cornell University Library
PQ 2521.T3 1887
Therese Raauin ,
The original of this book is in
the Cornell University Library.
There are no known copyright restrictions in
the United States on the use of the text.
MADAME RAQUIN'S EFFORT TO DENOUNCE THE MURDERERS
OF HER SON. p.gOS,
LAUltENT THKOWING CA5HLLE INTO THE IUVEB.
BY 3^M:IIjB ZOLA.
A REALISTIC NOVEL.
TRANSLATED WITHOUT ABRIDGMENT FROM THE LATEST FRENCH EDITION.
lUttstrattb forth .Sixteen lagc ©ngrabmg*,
FROM DESIGNS BY CASTEIXI.
VlZETELLY &• CO., 42 CATHERINE STREET, Si RAND.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND FRENCH EDITION.
I had imagined in my simplicity that this novel might do
without a preface. Being in the habit of saying aloud
exactly what I think, of laying stress even upon the slightest
details of -what I write, I had hoped to have been understood
and judged without any preliminary explanation. It appears
that I was mistaken.
Criticism has received this book with a brutal and indig-
nant outcry. Certain virtuous individuals, in newspapers
equally virtuous, have made a grimace of disgust as they
took it up with the tongs to pitch it into the fire. The
little literary sheets themselves, those little sheets which
chronicle every evening the news of alcoves and private
supper-rooms at restaurants, have put their handkerchiefs to
their noses and talked of filth and foul smells. I in nowise
complain of this reception ; on the contrary, I am charmed
to observe that my brother journalists possess the sensitive
nerves of young girls. It is quite evident that my work
belongs to my judges, and that they may consider it a
nauseous production without my having a right to protest.
What I do complain of is that not one of the chaste journal-
ists, who blushed on reading " Therese Eaquin," appears to
me to have understood this novel. If they had understood
it, perhaps they would have blushed still more, but I should
at least at this moment have had the inmost satisfaction of
seeing them disgusted with good cause. Nothing is more
irritating than to hear worthy writers complaining of de-
pravity, when one is intimately persuaded that they cry out
without knowing their reason for doing so.
It becomes necessary, therefore, that I should myself in-
troduce my work to my judges. I will do so in a few lines,
solely with a view of avoiding all misunderstanding in the
In "Therese Eaquin," I have sought to study tempera-
ments and not characters. In that lies the entire book. I
have selected personages sovereignly dominated by their
nerves and their blood, destitute of free will, led at each act
of their life by the fatalities of their flesh. Therese and
Laurent are human brutes, nothing more. I have sought
to follow, step by step, throughout the career of these brutes,
the secret working of their passions, the promptings of their
instinct, the cerebral disorders following a nervous crisis.
The amours of my hero and heroine are the satisfying of a
necessity; the murder they commit is a consequence of
their adultery, a consequence which they accept like wolves
accept the slaughtering of sheep ; finally, that which I have
been obliged to term their remorse, consists in a simple
organic disorder, in the rebellion of a nervous system strung
to the point of breaking. The soul is entirely wanting ; I
admit this the more readily as I wished it to be so.
The reader begins, I hope, to understand that my aim has
been, before all other, a scientific one. When my two per-
sonages, Therese and Laurent, were created, I took pleasure
in stating certain problems to myself and in solving them ;
thus, I tried to explain the strange union which may be
produced between two different temperaments; I showed
the profound agitation of a sanguineous nature coming into
contact with a nervous one. When one reads the novel
carefully, one will observe that each chapter is the study of
a curious case of physiology. In a word, I had but one
desire : given a powerful man and an unsated woman, seek
the animal within them, even see nothing but the animal,
cast them into a violent drama, and scrupulously note the
acts and sensations of these beings. I have simply under-
taken on two living bodies the analytical work which
surgeons perform on corpses.
Admit that it is hard, when one emerges from such- a task,
still enwrapt in the grave enjoyments of the search for truth,
to hear people accuse you of having had for your sole object
the painting of obscene pictures. I find myself in the same
position as those painters who copy the nude, without the
least desire being kindled within them, and who are pro-
foundly surprised when a critic declares himself scandalised
by the life-like flesh of their work. While engaged in writing
" Therese Raquin," I forgot the world, I became lost in the
minute and exact copy of life, giving myself up entirely to
the analysis of the human mechanism ; and I can assure you
that the cruel amours of The'rese and Laurent had in them
nothing immoral to my mind, nothing which could dispose one
to evil passions. The humanity of the models disappeared
the same as it vanishes in the eyes of the artist who has a
naked woman sprawling before him, and who is solely think-
ing of representing this woman on his canvas in all the
truthfulness of form and colour. Therefore my surprise was
great when I heard my work compared to a pool of blood
and mire, to a sewer, to a mass of filth, and I know not what
else. I know, the pretty game of criticising ; I. have played
at it myself ; but I admit that the uniformity of the attack
rather disconcerted me. What ! there was not one of my
brother writers who would explain the book, if not defend it !
Among the concert of voices exclaiming, "The author of
'The"rese Raquin' is a wretched, hysterical being who de-
lights in displaying obscenities," I have vainly awaited a
voice that replied, " Not at all ! this writer is a mere analyst,
who may have forgotten himself amidst human putrefaction,
but who has forgotten himself there like the doctor forgets
himself in the dissecting-room.''
Observe that I in no way ask for the sympathy of the
press for a work which, as it says, is repugnant to its delicate
senses. I am not so ambitious. I am merely astonished
that my brother writers should have made me out a kind of
literary scavenger — they, whose experienced eyes should
discover in ten pages a novelist's intentions ; and I am con-
tent to humbly implore them to be good enough in future
to see me as I am and to discuss me for what I am.
It was easy, though, to understand " Therese Raquin," to
place one's self on the field of observation and analysis, to
show me my real faults, without going and picking up a
handful of mud and throwing it in my face in the name of
morality. This required only a little intelligence and a few
methodical ideas in real criticism. The reproach of immoral-
ity, in scientific matters, proves absolutely nothing. I do not
know whether my novel is immoral ; I admit that I never
troubled myself to make it more or less chaste. What I do
know is that I never for a moment thought of introducing
into it the filth that these moral persons have discovered ;
that I wrote each scene, even the most passionate, with the
sole curiosity of the man of science ; that I defy my judges
to find in it a single page really licentious, written for the
readers of those little pink books, of those indiscreet chron-
icles of the boudoir and the stage, which are printed ten
thousand copies at a time, and warmly recommended by the
very newspapers which are so disgusted by the truths in
" ThfSrese Raquin."
A few insults, a large amount of stupidity, is therefore all
I have read up to the present respecting my work. I say
so here quietly, the same as I would say it to a friend who
should ask me privately what I think of the attitude which
criticism has taken up towards me. A writer of great talent,
to whom I complained of the little sympathy I have met
with, made me this profound answer : " You have an im-
mense fault which will close all doors against you : you
cannot converse for two minutes with a fool without showing
him that' he is one." It must be so ; I can feel the harm
I do myself as regards criticism by accusing it of a want of
intelligence, and yet I cannot help showing the contempt I
feel for its limited horizon and the judgments it delivers with
its eyes shut, without the least attempt at method. I speak,
be it understood, of current criticism, of that which judges
with all the literary prejudices of fools, unable to place itself
on the broad, human standpoint required to understand a
human work. Never before have I met with such blunder-
ing. The few blows that the minor critics have dealt me
with respect to " Thdrese Eaquin " have landed, as usual,
into space. They hit, essentially, in the wrong place, ap-
plauding the capers of a powdered actress, and then com-
plaining of immorality with reference to a physiological
study, understanding nothing, unwilling to understand
anything, striking always straight before them, if their
panic-stricken foolishness bids them strike. It is exasperat-
ing to be beaten for a fault one has not committed. At
times, I regret not having written something obscene; it
seems to me that I should delight in receiving a merited
castigation, in the midst of this shower of blows falling so
stupidly on my head, like a cartload of bricks, without my
In our time there are scarcely more than two or three
men capable of reading, understanding, and judging a book.
From these I will consent to receive lessons, persuaded as I
am that they will not speak without having penetrated
my intentions and appreciated the result of my efforts.
They would think twice before uttering those grand empty
words, morality and literary modesty ; they would allow
me the right, in these days of liberty in art, of choosing my
subjects wherever I thought best, requiring of me no more
than conscientious work, aware that folly alone is prejudicial
to the dignity of letters. One thing is certain, the scientific
analysis which I have attempted to perform in "Therese
Eaquin " would not surprise them ; they would see in it the
modern method, the instrument of universal inquiry of which
the century makes such feverish use to penetrate the future.
Whatever their conclusion might be, they would admit my
point of departure, the study of temperament and of the
profound modifications of organism under the pressure of
circumstances and situations. I should find myself in the
presence of real judges, of men honestly seeking for truth,
without puerility or false shame, and not thinking it neces-
sary to show disgust at the sight of bare and living ana-
tomical forms. Sincere study, like fire, purifies everything.
No doubt to the tribunal I am pleased to picture at this mo-
ment my work would appear very humble ; I would that it
met with full severity from its critics, I would like to see it
emerge black with corrections. But I should at least have
the great joy of seeing myself criticised for that which I
have attempted to do, and not for that which I have not
I can fancy I hear, even now, the sentence of high crit-
icism, of that methodical and naturalistic criticism which
has imbued science, history, and literature with new life :
" ' Th^rese Raqum, ' is the study of too exceptional a case ;
the drama of modern life is more supple, less wrapt up in
horror and madness. Such cases should only occupy a
secondary position in a work. The desire to lose no portion
of his observations has led the author to give prominence to
every detail, and this has added still more tension and harsh-
ness to the whole. On the other hand, the " style does not
possess the simplicity requisite in an analytical novel. It
would be necessary, in short, that the writer, to enable him
to construct a good novel, should see society with a wider
glance, should paint it under its numerous and varied as-
pects, and should above all employ a plain and natural
I had wished to reply in twenty lines to attacks rendered
irritating by their ingenuous bad faith, and I perceive that I
am chatting with myself, as always happens whenever I keep
a pen too long in my hand. I therefore stop, knowing that
readers do not care for that kind of thing. Had I had the will
and the leisure to write a manifesto, perhaps I might have
attempted to defend what a journalist, speaking of " Therese
Raquin," has termed, " putrid literature." But where's the
use 1 The group of naturalistic writers to which I have the
honour to belong possesses sufficient courage and activity to
produce strong works, carrying their own defence within
them. It requires all the blind obstinacy of a certain class
of critics to force a novelist to write a preface. As, for the
sake of light, I have committed the fault of writing one, I
crave the pardon of those intelligent persons who have no
need to have a lamp lighted at mid-day to enable them to
At the end of the Rue Guenegaud, near the quays, is the
Passage du Pont-Neuf, a kind of corridor, narrow and
gloomy, joining the Rue Mazarine to the Rue de Seine.
This Passage is at most thirty paces long, and a couple of
paces wide ; it is paved with yellowish flagstones, worn,
loose, ever exhaling a rank moisture ; the glass roof covering
it, and sloping at right angles, is grimy with dirt.
On the lovely summer days, when a hot sun scorches the
streets, a sickly light penetrates the dirty glass, and hangs
miserably about the Passage. On the dull winter days, on
the foggy mornings, the glass reflects only a lurid and ob-
scure light on to the reeking flagstones.
On the left are some low, dark shops, huddled together,
emitting puffs of cold cavernous air. There are old book-
stalls, toy shops, cardboard box stores, their contents grey
with dust reposing vaguely in shadow ; the small squares of
glass of which the shop fronts are composed, cast greenish
reflections on the articles inside. Beyond, (the obscure
depths, in the rear of the goods displayed, seem like so
many gloomy caverns wherein strange fantastic forms move
On the right, along the entire length of the Passage, ex-
14 THERESE RAQUIN.
tends a Wall, against which the shopkeepers opposite have
fixed narrow cupboards : nameless trifles, goods forgotten
there for the last twenty years are displayed on the con-
tracted shelves, which are painted a horrible brown colour.
A dealer in sham jewellery has established herself in one of
these little cupboards ; she sells, for fifteen sous each, rings
which repose delicately on a bed of blue velvet at the
bottom of a mahogany box.
Above the glass roof the wall towers black, rough-cast, as
if affected with leprosy, and covered with scars.
This Passage du Pont-Neuf is not a place of promenade ;
one uses it to make a short cut, to save a few minutes. It is
traversed by busy people, whose sole object is to go straight
and quickly to their destination. One meets there appren-
tices in their working aprons, seamstresses taking home
their work, men and women with parcels under their arms ;
also old men hobbling along in the dim twilight which
struggles through the glass roof, and bands of children dis-
missed from school, who come there to enjoy the noise they
make with their wooden shoes, while hopping over the
stones. All day long there is a sharp, quick sound of foot-
steps hurrying along with irritating irregularity ; no one
speaks, no one loiters ; each one hastens on to his business,
his head bowed, walking rapidly without so much as a glance
at the shops. The shopkeepers gaze anxiously at those
passers-by who, for a wonder, stop for a moment opposite
At night-time three gas-jets enclosed in heavy square
lanterns light up the Passage. These lanterns, hanging from
the glass roof on which they throw spots of lurid light,
diffuse a faint glimmer around, which quivers and at times
seems to disappear. The Passage assumes the aspect of a
cut-throat alley ; huge shadows lengthen on the pavement,
puffs of damp air come from the street j/you might imagine
THERESE RAQUIN. 15
it to be a subterranean gallery dimly lighted by three
funeral lamps .} The shop-keepers content themselves with
the meagre rays which the gas-jets cast on to their windows.
Inside their only light is a lamp with a shade placed on a
corner of the counter, thus enabling the passers-by to dis-
tinguish the depths of these caves where night reigns during
the day-time. Among the dark line of shop fronts the
windows of the dealer in card-board boxes are a blaze of light ;
two lamps pierce the shadows with their yellow flames. On
the opposite side a candle stuck inside a lamp-glass throws
its feeble rays on to the box of sham jewellery. The owner
dozes in her cupboard with her hands under her shawl.
Some years ago opposite to this dealer's there stood a shop,
from the dark green woodwork of which damp exuded at all
the crevices. The word "Haberdashery" was painted in
black letters on a long narrow signboard, and on one of the
door panes a woman's name, " Th^rese Eaquin,'' was written
in red letters. Right and left were deep show-cases lined
with blue paper.
In the day-time, the eye could only distinguish the dis-
play of goods in a softened clare-obscure.
On one side was a little linen drapery : goffered tulle
caps at two and three francs each, muslin collars and cuffs ;
then some knitted goods, stockings, socks, and braces. Each
article, crumpled and discoloured, was miserably hung up to
a wire hook. ^The window was thus filled with pale-coloured
unsaleable goods which had a dismal aspect in the trans-
parent obscurityj The new caps, more brightly white, made
staring spots on the blue paper with which the woodwork
was covered. And, strung all along a rod, the coloured
socks were so many gloomy notes amidst the vague and
pale effacement of the muslin.
On the other side, in a narrower window, were rows of
great balls of green wool, black buttons sewn on white cardSj
IB THERESE KAQUIN.
boxes of all colours and sizes, hair-nets with steel beads
spread out on rounds of bluish paper, bundles of knitting
needles, patterns of wool-work, rolls of ribbon, a heap of"
faded and spoiled articles, which had doubtless remained in
the same spot undisturbed for five or six years. (Every tint
had turned to a dirty grey in this corner rotting with dust
Towards noon, in summer, when the sun scorched the
streets and squares with his fiercest rays, there was visible,
behind the caps in the other window, the pale, grave pro-
file of a young woman. This profile stood out vaguely from
the dark shadows which filled the shop. Beneath the sharp
low forehead came a long, narrow, delicate nose ; the lips
were two thin lines of pale pink, and the chin, short and
nervous, joined the neck with a full, graceful curve. The
body, lost in the shadows, was invisible ; the profile alone
appeared, of a dull white, pierced by a large black eye, and
as if weighed down by a mass of dark hair. It was there
for hours together, peaceful and motionless, between two
caps on which the damp rods had left lines of rust.
In the evening, when the lamp was lighted, the interior
of the shop became visible. It was more broad than deep ;
at one end was a little counter ; at the other, a screw-shaped
staircase led to the rooms on the first floor. Against the
walls were ranged show-cases, cupboards, and rows of green
card-board boxes; four chairs and a table completed the
furniture. (The apartment looked bare and cold ; the wares
packed up, huddled into corners, were not left lying about,
brightening the scene with their gay riot of colours)
Usually, two women presided behind the counter: the
young woman with the _grave _profile, and an/old lady who
dozed and smiled. The latter was about sixty; her fat,
placid face] looked pale in the lamp-light. A huge tabby cat
perched on a corner of the counter, watched her sleeping.
THiRfcSE RAQUIN. 17
Lower down, seated on a chair, a young man of about
thirty read or talked in an undertone to the young woman.
[He was small, puny, and feeble in appearance, with pale
light hair, very little beard, and a face covered with freckles j
he resembled a sickly, spoilt childJ
A little before ten o'clock, the old lady would awake.
The shop was then closed, and the whole family would
retire upstairs to bed. The tabby cat followed purring, and
rubbing his head against each bar of the banisters.
Up above, the lodging was composed of three rooms.
First came a dining-room, which also served as a reception
room. To the left there was an earthenware stone placed
in a recess ; opposite was a sideboard ; several chairs were
ranged along the walls ; a rouni table occupied the centre of
the apartment. Beyond came a dark kitchen, behind a glass
door. On either side of the dining-room was a bedroom.
The old lady, after kissing her son and daughter-in-law,
went to her own chamber. The cat slept on a chair in the
kitchen. The young couple retired into their room, which
had a second door opening on a stair-case that led out to
the Passage by a dark and narrow way.
The husband, who was always shivering with fever, would
get into bed; meanwhile, the young wife would ©pen the
window to close the outer shutters. She would remain
there some minutes, o pposite the great, bjack. rough p lastered
wall, . which rises and extends above the gallery. She would
cast a vague glance along this wall, and then, without a
word, she too would get into bed, with disdainful in-
Madame Raquin had formerly been a draper, at Vernon.
For nearly five-and-twenty years, she had lived in a small
shop in that town. Some years after the death of her
husband, she felt a need for rest, and sold her business.
Her savings, added to the proceeds of the sale, gave her a
sum of forty thousand francs, which she invested, receiving
for it <m income of two thousand francs per annum. This
sum would amply, suffice her. She lived a secluded life,
sheltered from the excitements and keen anxieties of the
world; she looked forward to an existence of peace and
She rented, for four hundred francs, a small house, with
a garden sloping down to the Seine. It was a discreet and
secluded dwelling, with a vague conventual odour ; a
narrow pathway led to this retreat situated amidst large
meadows ; the windows looked on the river and the
deserted slopes of the opposite bank. The good woman
who had passed her fiftieth year, shut herself up in this
solitude, and tasted quiet happiness with her son Camille
and her niece Therese.
Camille was then twenty. His mother still spoilt him as
though he were a little boy. She loved him the more that
she had so many times snatched him from death during a
long childhood of suffering. The boy had had, one after the
other, every fever, every complaint imaginable. Madame
Raquin fought for fifteen years against the terrible ailments
whioh came in turn to try and rob her of her son. She
THERESE RAQUIN. 19
conquered them all by her patience, her care, her de-
Camillo, grown to years of manhood, saved from death,
seemed ever shivering from the repeated shocks to his
system. Stunted in his growth, he was undersized and
weakly. His slender limbs moved slowly and with effort.
His mother loved him the more for this weakness which
bent his frame. She looked at his poor little pale face with
triumphant tenderness, feeling that she had at least ten
times restored him to life.
During his rare intervals of health, the child had at-
tended a commercial school in Vernon. There he learnt
arithmetic and orthography. His knowledge did not extend
beyond the four rules and a very superficial acquaintance
with grammar. Later he took lessons in writing and book-
keeping. Madame Eaquin trembled when she was advised
to send her son to college ; she knew he would die away
from her, she said books would kill him. Camille re-
mained ignorant and his ignorance seemed like an addi-
At eighteen, unemployed, wearied to death with the
coddling with which his mother enveloped him. he became a
clerk in a linen merchant's warehouse. His salary was
sixty. francs a month. He had a restless spirit which made
an idle life unendurable to him. He felt more tranquil, his
health improved in this brutish labour, this mechanical
work which kept him all day bent over invoices and long
columns of figures which he had to tot up one by one. In
the evening, worn out, light headed, he quite revelled in
the dull fatigue which overcame him. He had quite to
quarrel with his mother before taking this berth ; she
would have had him ever at her side between two blankets,
far from the accidents of life. The young man assumed a
masterful tone ; he demanded work as other children de->
20 THERESE RAQUIN.
mand toys, not from a feeling of duty, but from instinct,
from a craving of nature. His mother's tender devotion
had produced in him a fierce selfishness; he thought he
loved those who pitied and caressed him ; but in reality, he
lived apart, wrapt up in himself, only caring for his own
comfort, trying in every possible way to increase his plea-
sures. When surfeited with Madame Eaquin's tender affec-
tion, he threw himself with rapture into a stupid employ-
ment which saved him from doctor's draughts and diet
drinks. Then, in the evening, on returning from his office,
he strolled along the banks of the Seine with his cousin
Th&ese was close upon eighteen. Sixteen years before,
when Madame Eaquin was still in business, her brother,
Captain Degans, brought her a little girl in his arms. He
had just come from Algeria.
" Here is a little one who claims you as aunt," said he,
with a smile. " Her mother is dead, I do not know what to
do with her. I give her to you."
The draper took the child, smiled upon it, kissed its rosy
cheeks. Degans remained a week at Vernon. His sister
scarcely asked him any questions about the daughter he
gave her. She merely knew that the dear little thing was
born at Oran, and that her mother was a native of great
beauty. The captain, an hour before his departure, handed
her the certificate of birth in which Therese was recognised
as his daughter, and bore his name. He went away, and
never returned ; a few years later, he was killed in Africa.
Therese grew up, sleeping in the same bed as Camille,
sharing her aunt's warm caresses. She had an iron consti-
tution, and she was nursed like a delicate child, taking the
same medicines as her cousin, kept in the same close atmos-
phere as the sickly boy. For hours, she stayed cowering
before the fire, pensive, staring at the flames without
THERESE RAQUIN. 21
blinking. This enforced invalid life caused her to retire
within herself ; she contracted the habit of speaking in low
tones, of walking about noiselessly, of remaining silent and
motionless on a chair, her eyes wide open and gazing into
vacancy. And when she raised an arm, or lifted a foot, she
betrayed a feline suppleness, short and powerful muscles, a
great energy, a strong passion lying dormant in her
One day, her cousin had fallen down fainting ; she had
raised him up and carried him with an abrupt gesture,
and this display of strength had brought a red patch of
colour on either cheek. The secluded life she led, the
debilitating treatment to which she was subjected, could
not weaken her spare and robust frame ; her complexion
alone suffered, assuming pale yellow tints, and making her
almost ugly, when in the shade. Sometimes she went to
the window and gazed on the opposite houses, on which the
sun was shedding its golden rays.
When Madame Eaquin sold her business and retired to
the little house on the banks of the river, Therese had
secret transports of joy. Her aunt had so often repeated :
" Be quiet, don't make a noise," that she had kept carefully
concealed from others all the impetuosity of her nature.
She possessed a supreme calm, an apparent tranquillity
which disguised the most violent storms. She fancied
herself to be ever in her cousin's room, near a dying child ;
she acquired the quiet movements, the silence, the placidity,
and the stammering utterance of an old woman. When she
saw the garden, the white river, the vast green slopes which
extended to the horizon, she had a wild longing to run and
shout ; she felt her heart throbbing in her bosom ; but not
a muscle of her face stirred, and a quiet smile alone replied
to her aunt's inquiry as to whether she liked their new
22 THfiRfiSE RAQtTIN.
Life grew brighter for her. She retained her easy move-
ments, her calm, indifferent expression, she still looked the
child reared in a sick-bed ; but she lived internally a turbu-
lent, passionate existence. When she was alone on the
grass by the water's edge, she lay flat on her face like an
animal, her black eyes dilated, her body crouching, ready
to spring. And she remained thus for hours, thinking of
nothing, scorched by the sun, happy to thrust her fingers
into the ground. She had wild dreams ; she glanced
defiance at the river as it flowed, she imagined the water
was about to leap up and attack her ; then she pulled her-
self together, put herself on the defensive, and angrily
wondered how she could conquer the flood.
In the evenings, Therese, quiet and silent, stitched by the
side of her aunt ; her countenance seemed to slumber in the
light which softly streamed from beneath the shade of the
lamp. Camille, huddled up in an easy chair, pondered over
his calculations. A solitary word uttered in low tones, alone
broke, now and again, the silence of this sleepy interior.
Madame Eaquin contemplated her children with placid
affection. She had resolved that they should marry. She
continued treating her son as a dying man ; she trembled
when she thought of her own end, and of leaving him alone
and suffering. Then she relied on Th&rese, considering that
the young girl would be a watchful nurse for Camille. Her
niece, with her quiet ways, her silent devotion, inspired her
with boundless confidence. She had seen her at work, she
would give her to her son as his guardian angel. This mar-
riage was a settled plan.
The children had long known they were to be married
one day. They had grown up in this knowledge, which had
thus become to them familiar and natural. This union was
spoken of in the family as a necessity of fate. Madame
Raquin had said : " We will wait until Therese is one-and-
THEKESE'S INDIGNATION AGAINST CAMILLE.
THERESE' RAQUIN. 23
twenty.'' And they waited patiently, without desire, with-
out embarrassment. ,
Camille, whose blood was impoverished by his bad health,
had never felt the eager desires of adolescence. He had
remained a little boy with his cousin, he kissed her as he
kissed his mother, from habit, without losing any of his sel-
fish calm. He saw in her an agreeable companion, who helped
to amuse him, and who, occasionally, made his diet drinks.
When he played with her, or held her in his arms, he felt as
if she were a boy ; his flesh received no exciting thrill. And
never had it struck him, at such times, to kiss the warm
lips of the young girl, who was struggling and. laughing
Therese also seemed to remain cold and indifferent. She
sometimes cast her large eyes on Camille, gazing fixedly at
him for several minutes with a sovereign calm. Her lips alone
had then little almost imperceptible movements. One could
read nothing on that closed face, which was always held
gently attentive by an implacable will. Whenever the mar-
riage was discussed, Therese became grave, merely approving
with an inclination of her head all that Madame Eaquin said.
Camille went to sleep.
In the summer'evenings, the young people wandered away
to the water-side. Camille wearied of his mother's incessant
cares; he grew rebellious, he wanted to run about, make
himself ill, escape the coaxings which nauseated him. He
would lead Therese away, and persuade her to wrestle and
play on the grass. One day, he pushed his cousin and made
her fall; the young girl regained her feet with a spring,
and with savage fury, burning face, and flashing eyes, she
threw herself upon him with" uplifted arms. Camille slipped
down on the ground. He was filled with fear.
Months, years passed by. The day fixed for the wedding
arrived. Madame Raquin took Therese aside, spoke to her
24 TH^RESE RAQUIN.
of her parents, related the history of her birth. The young
girl listened to her aunt, and kissed her, without answering
a word. At night, Therese, instead of going to her own
bedroom, to the left of the staircase, entered her cousin's
room, to the right. This was fhe only change in her life
that day. Next morning, when the young couple came
down, Camille had his usual sickly languor, his selfish,
saintly quietude, and Therese still retained her gentle in-
difference, her expressionless face so frightfully calm.
A week after his marriage, Camille told his mother plainly
that he intended leaving Vernon and residing in Paris.
Madame Raquin objected ; she had settled down, she did
not wish for any change in her mode of life. Her son had
a sharp attack of " nerves," he threatened to have an illness,
if she did not yield to his whim.
" I have never thwarted your plans," he said. " I have
married my cousin, I- have taken all the drugs yoii gave me.
The least I may expect now is to be allowed a will of my
own, and that you should be of my way of thinking. We
will leave here at the end of the month."
Madame Raquin passed a sleepless night. Camille's re-
solve upset her life, and she tried desperately to remodel it-
By degrees she became calm. She reflected that children
might be added to the family and that her modest compet-
ence would then be insufficient. More money must be made,
business must be resumed, some lucrative trade found for
Therese. By the morning, the notion of leaving Vernon had
grown familiar to her. She had formed the plan of their new
Breakfast found her quite cheerful.
" This is what we will do," she said to her children. "1
will go to-morrow to Paris ; I will look about for a modest
haberdashery business, and Therese and I will again occupy
ourselves in selling needles and thread. That will give us
something to do. You, Camille, can act as you please;
bask in the sun, or take a situation."
26 THERESE RAQUIN. *
" I shall take a situation," replied the young man.
The truth was that a foolish ambition had alone caused
Gamille's resolve. He longed to be employed in a large
house of business ; he coloured with pleasure when contem-
plating himself, in his dreams, in the midst of a huge office,
with lute-string sleeves on his arms, and a pen behind his ear.
Therese was not consulted ; she had always shown such
passive obedience that her aunt and her husband no longer
troubled themselves to ask her opinion. She went where
they went, she did as they did, without a word, without a
murmur, without even seeming aware of any change.
Madame Eaquin came to Paris and went straight to the
Passage du Pont-Neuf. An old maid at Vernon had directed
her to one of her relatives, who had a haberdashery business
in this Passage, which she wished to dispose of. The old
lady found the shop rather small and rather dark ; but in
making her way through Paris she had been bewildered with
the noisy traffic of the streets and the display of luxury in
the shops, and this narrow gallery, these modest windows,
reminded her of her own old, quiet shop. She could almost
imagine herself still in the country, she breathed again, she
thought her dear children would be happy in this remote
corner. The modest sum asked for the stock decided her j
the price was two thousand francs. The rent of the shop
and the first floor came to no more than twelve hundred
irancs. Madame Raquin, who had saved some four thou-
sand francs, calculated that she could purchase the stock,
and pay the first year's rent without touching her capital.
Camille'a salary and the takings from the shop would, she
thought, suffice for current expenses, so that she need not
be using her income, which would swell the capital for a
provision for her grand-children.
She returned radiant to Vernon, announcing that she had
found a pearl, a delightful nook, in the heart of Paris.
THERESE RAQUlN. 27
Gradually, after some days, in her evening chats, the damp,
dark shop in the Passage grew into a palace ; she saw it in
memory, commodious, large, quiet, possessed of a thousand
"Ah! my good Therese," she said, "you will see how
happy we shall be in that nook! There are three fine
rooms upstairs. The Passage is very lively. We will dress
our windows charmingly. You will see how pleasant life
will be ! "
And her tongue kept wagging on. All her trading in-
stincts were aroused ; she gave Therese lessons in advance
on selling, buying, and the tricks of trade generally. So
the family left the house by the Seine ; and on the evening
of the same day they were installed in the Passage du
When Therese stepped into the house which was to be in
future her home, she felt as if descending into the fresh
earth of a new grave. A feeling of nausea rose in her
throat, she shivered with fear. She looked at the damp,
dirty corridor, she visited the shop, went upstairs, and
glanced into every apartment ; these bare, unfurnished rooms
were frightful in their dismantled solitude. The young wife
made no sign, said no word. She was as though petrified.
Her aunt and her husband having come downstairs, she sat
down on one of the trunks, her hands tightly compressed,
her throat filled with sobs, unable to weep.
Madame Raquin, in face of the reality, was embarrassed,
ashamed of her dreams. She tried to defend her choice.
She found a remedy for each freshly discovered inconveni-
ence, explained the darkness by saying the weather was
cloudy, and wound up by affirming that a good sweeping
was all that was necessary.
" Bah ! " replied Camille, " it will all do very well. Be-
sides, we shall only want to be upstairs at night-time. I
28 THERESE RAQUIN.
shall never be home before five or six o'clock. You two will
be together and keep each other company."
Never would the young man have consented to live in
such a hole, had he not counted on the delights of his
office. He told himself he would be comfortable all day at
his place of business, and that in the evening he could go to
For a whole week the house and shop were in confusion.
From the first day, Therese sat herself behind the counter
and she never stirred from that position. Madame Eaquin
was surprised at this dejected attitude ; she had thought the
young wife would have sought to adom her dwelling, put
flowers in the windows, ask to have the rooms repapered,
and to have fresh curtains and carpets. Whenever she her-
self proposed any alteration or embellishment :
" What is the use 1" her niece would quietly reply. " We
shall do very well as we are, we need no luxuries ? "
It was Madame Eaquin who had to arrange the rooms
and put the shep in order. Therese grew impatient at last
with her aunt's perpetual motion ; she hired a charwoman,
and insisted on her aunt sitting down with her.
Camille was a whole month without finding employment.
He lived as little as possible in the shop, and dawdled about
all day. He grew so bored that he spoke of returning to
Vernon. Eventually, he obtained a clerkship in the Orleans
Eailway Office. He drew a hundred francs a month. His
dream was realised.
He went out every morning at eight o'clock. He walked
down the Eue Guenegaud to the quays. Then, at an easy
pace, his hands in his pockets, he followed the Seine from
the Institute to the Jardin des Plantes. This long walk,
twice a day, never wearied him. He would watch the water
flowing by, and stop to look at the loads of wood going
down the river. He thought of nothing. He would often
THtiRtiSE RAQUIN. 29
loiter in front of Notre-Dame, examining the scaffolding
with which the cathedral was then surrounded for repairs.
These huge pieces of timber amused him without his know-
ing why. Then, he would cast a passing glance at the Port
aux Vins, and count the cabs coming from the railway
station. In the evening, scarcely knowing what he did, his
head full of some silly story picked up at the office, he
would cross the Jardin des Plantes, and, if he were not in a
hurry, visit the bears. He would remain there for half-an-
hour, leaning over the pit, watching the bears with their
heavy movements ; the ways of these huge creatures pleased
him ; he gazed at them with his eyes and mouth wide open,
feeling an idiotic delight in beholding them move. At
length he would make up his mind to go home, walking
slowly, amusing himself with the passers-by, the vehicles,
and the shops.
Directly he arrived he would dine, and then begin read-
ing. He had purchased Buffon's works, and, every evening,
he gave himself a task of twenty or thirty pages, in spite of
the weariness which this study caused him. He read also
Thiers's " History of the Consulate and the Empire," and
Lamartine's " History of the Girondins," or some book of
popular science. He fancied he was completing his educa-
tion. Sometimes he insisted on his wife listening to certain
pages and anecdotes. He wondered immensely how Therese
could remain all the evening pensive and silent, without
being tempted to read a book. Privately, he came to the
conclusion that his wife was by no means intellectual.
Therese impatiently rejected books. She preferred to re-
main idle, her eyes fixed on vacancy, her thoughts floating
in dreams. Otherwise, she preserved an equable temper ;
all her will was set on reducing herself to a passive instru-
ment of supreme complacence and abnegation.
The business jogged quietly along. The profits each
30 THERESE RAQUIN.
month were regularly the same. The customers were
mostly the work-girls of the neighbourhood. Every five
minutes a young girl came in and bought a few sous' worth
of goods. Therese served them always with the same words
and stereotyped smile. Madame Kaquin was more active,
more genial, and, truth to tell, it was she who attracted and
retained the customers.
For three years the days followed and resembled each
other. Camille never once absented himself from his desk;
his mother and his wife rarely left the shop. Therese, pass-
ing her days in a damp shadow, in a dreary, crushing
silence, saw her life spread out before her, bare and waste,
bringing each night the same cold couch, and each morning
the same empty monotonous day.
Once a week, on Thursday evening, the Eaquins held a
reception. A large lamp was lighted in the dining-room,
and a kettle was put on the fire to boil water for tea. It
was quite an event. This evening contrasted with the
others. It seemed to this orderly family like an outburst of
mad gaiety ; they kept it up until eleven o'clock.
Madame Eaquin had found in Paris one of her old friends,
the police commissary Michaud, who was stationed for
twenty years at Vernon, and had there occupied part of the
same house with herself. They had been intimate friends ;
and when the widow had sold her stock, and moved to the
little house by the riverside, they had gradually lost sight
of each other. Michaud left the country some months later,
and went to enjoy peacefully in Paris, in the Eue de Seine,
his pension of fifteen hundred francs. One rainy day he
met his old friend in the Passage du Pont-Neuf ; and that
evening he dined with the Eaquins.
This was the foundation of the Thursday receptions.
The old police commissary was in the habit of coming
punctually once a week. He brought, after a time, his son
Olivier, a tall, thin, plain fellow of thirty, who had married
a little, gentle, delicate wife. Olivier held a post worth
three thousand francs at the Prefecture, and of this Camille
was very envious. He was head clerk in the police office of
order and safety. From the first visit, Therese detested this
stiff, haughty man, who thought he was honouring the shop
32 THERESE BAQUIN.
in the Passage with his lean, lanky presence and the delicate
health of his poor little wife.
Camille introduced another guest, an old employee of the
Orleans railway named Grivet who had been serving there
for twenty years, and was now head clerk, with two thousand
one hundred francs salary. It was he who gave out the
work to the employees in Camille's office, and the latter held
him in considerable respect. In his dreams he told him-
self Grivet would die one day, and at any rate he might
hope to replace him in perhaps ten years. Grivet was
delighted with his reception from Madame Eaquin, and he
came every Thursday with perfect regularity. Six months
later his weekly visit had become in his eyes a duty. He
went to the Passage du Pont-Neuf as he went daily to his
office, mechanically, by instinct, like an animal.
Thenceforward these gatherings became very pleasant.
At seven o'clock, Madame Eaquin lit the fire, placed the
lamp in the centre of the table, brought out a box of
dominoes, and dusted the tea-service which was on the side-
board. At eight o'clock precisely, old Michaud and Grivet
met outside the shop, coming one from the Eue de Seine,
the other from the Eue Mazarine. They entered, and all
the family went upstairs. They seated themselves round
the table, waiting for Olivier Michaud and his wife, who
were always late. When all had arrived, Madame Eaquin
poured out tea. Camille emptied the box of dominoes on
the American cloth, and each one became engrossed in the
game. No noise but the click of the dominoes was to be
heard. After each game the players quarrelled for two or
three minntes, then silence fell again gloomily, broken only
by sharp sounds.
Therese played with an indifference which irritated Camille.
She would take Francois, the large tabby cat whom Madame
Eaquin had brought from Vernon, on her lap, and caress him
THERESE RAQUIN. 33
with one hand, while she placed her dominoes with the other.
The Thursday evenings were a torment to her. She often
complained of some ailment in order to excuse herself from
playing, so as to sit there listlessly, half asleep. With an
elbow on the table, and her cheek resting on the palm of
her hand, she would watch the guests of her aunt and her
husband ; she saw them through a kind of yellow, smoky
fog which came from the lamp. All those heads exasperated
her. She looked from one to the other with profound dis-
gust and sullen irritation. Old Michaud had a leaden-hued
face, marked with red blotches — one of those dead-looking
faces of old people who have reached second childhood ;
Grivet had the narrow countenance, round eyes, and thin
lips of an idiot ; Olivier, whose cheek-bones protruded, had
a ridiculous body, surmounted by a stiff, insignificant head ;
as for Suzanne, Olivier's wife, she was ghastly pale, with
uncertain eyes, white lips, and indistinct features.
And Therese did not find one man, one living creature
among these weird, grotesque beings with whom she was
shut up. Sometimes she imagined herself buried at the
bottom of a vault, in company with mechanical corpses, who
moved their heads and stirred their limbs in obedience to
invisibly pulled strings. The heavy air of the dining-room
stifled her ; the shivering silence, the yellowish rays of the
lamp, penetrated her with a vague terror, an indescribable
Downstairs at the shop door there was hung a bell, the
sharp ring of which announced the entrance of a customer
Therese would sit listening, and when the bell sounded, she
hastily descended, happy, relieved at the excuse for quitting
the company. She attended leisurely to the purchaser
When the latter had departed, she remained sitting behind
the counter as long as possible, dreading to go up again
feeling a genuine comfort in no longer having Grivet and
31 THtiRftSE RAQUIN.
Olivier before her eyes. The damp atmosphere of the shop
cooled the fever which burnt her hands. And she relapsed
into the grave reverie that was now habitual with her.
But she could not remain long away. Camille chafed at
her absence ; he could not understand anyone preferring the
shop to the dining-room on a Thursday evening. And he
would lean over the banisters, looking for his wife.
"Well!" he would cry, "what are you doing there?
Why do you not come up ] Grivet has the devil's own luck.
He has won again."
The young wife would rise reluctantly and come up, re-
suming her place opposite old Michaud, whose drooping lips
broke into repulsive smiles. And, until eleven o'clock, she
remained sunk into her chair, watching Francois, whom she
held on her lap, to avoid seeing the puppets who were
grimacing around her.
One Thursday, on returning from his office, Camille brought
with him a fine-looking, square shouldered man, whom he
pushed inside the shop with a familiar gesture.
" Mother,'' called he to Madame Eaquin, " do you recog-
nize this gentleman ? "
The old lady looked at the handsome fellow, tried to
recall his features and failed. Tnerese placidly looked on.
" What ! " said Camille, " don't you recognize Laurent,
little Laurent, whose father has such fine corn fields near
Jeufosse 1 Don't you remember ? We were school-fellows ;
he used to fetch me in the morning coming from his uncle's,
who was our neighbour, and you used to give him slices of
bread and jam.' ;
Madame Raquin suddenly recollected little Laurent, whom
she found marvellously grown. It was quite twenty years
since she had seen him. She sought to obliterate the effect
of her cold reception of him by a flood of memories, and
motherly attentions. Laurent had seated himself, he smiled
quietly, replied in clear tones, and cast calm and easy
glances around him.
" Just fancy," said Camille, " this fellow has been em-
ployed for the last eighteen months at the Orleans railway
station, and we have never met until this evening. It is
such a vast, such an important concern ! "
The young man made this remark with wide open eyes
and pursed lips, quite proud of being a humble wheel in the
great machine. He went on, shaking his head the while :
36 THfiRtSE RAQUIN.
" Oh ! but he is getting on well, he is already earning a
salary of fifteen hundred francs. His father sent him to
college ; he has studied for the bar and learnt painting.
You will dine with us, Laurent, won't you 1 "
" With pleasure," replied Laurent frankly.
He put down his hat and made himself at home in the
shop. Madame Eaquin hurried off to her saucepans.
Therese, who had not yet uttered a word, looked at the new-
comer. He was so unlike any man she had seen before.
Laurent, tall, powerful, fresh-coloured, astonished her. She
examined with a kind of admiration his low forehead fringed
with bushy black hair, his round cheeks, his bright red lips,
his regular features, his sanguine beauty. For an instant
she rested her eyes upon his neck ; this neck was short and
thick, fat and powerful. Then she lost herself in contem-
plation of his great hands spread out upon his knees ; the
fingers were square shaped ; the closed fist would surely be
enormous, and capable of felling an ox. Laurent was a
true son of the soil, with a somewhat heavy gait, a round
back, slow and precise movements, and a quiet obstinate
manner. Beneath his clothing one could have felt round
well-developed muscles, and a thick firm frame. And
Therese examined him with curiosity, from his fiats to his
face, feeling little thrills when her eye encountered his bull-
Camille brought out his volumes of Buffon and his penny
numbers, to show his friend that he also was studying.
Then, as if replying to a question which he had been asking
himself for some minutes :
"But," said he to Laurent, "you must remember my
wife? Don't you recollect the little cousin who used to
play with us at Vernon ? "
" I recognized madame at once," replied Laurent, looking
Therese in the face.
THERESE RAQUIN. 37
Under this steady gaze, which seemed to penetrate her,
the young wife felt a kind of uneasiness. She put on a
forced smile, and exchanged a few words with Laurent and
her husband ; then she hurried off to her aunt. She was
Dinner was served. Directly after the soup, Camille con-
sidered it his duty to talk to his friend.
" How is your father 1 " he asked him.
" Well, I don't exactly know," replied Laurent. " We
have quarrelled ; we have not written to each other for five
" Is it possible 1 " cried Camille, astounded at such a
monstrous state of things.
"Yes, the good man has views of his own. As he is
always going to law with his neighbours, he sent me to
college, hoping later to find in me a lawyer who would gain
every cause for him. Oh ! my father's ambition is all prac-
tical ; he tries to make a profit even of his hobbies.''
"And you refused to become a lawyer?" said Camille,
more and more astonished.
" By Jove ! yes," replied his friend, laughing. " For two
years I pretended to be reading up for it, in order to receive
the twelve hundred francs my father allowed me. I lived
with a college chum, who is an artist, and I dabbled in
painting. This amused me ; it is a pleasant profession, not
at all fatiguing. We smoked and fooled about all day."
The Kaquin family opened their eyes wide.
" Unluckily," continued Laurent, " this could not last for
ever. My father found I was deceiving him, he stopped my
allowance and advised me to come and dig with him. I
then tried painting sacred subjects; poor business that. As
I clearly saw I should soon be starving, I threw art to the
devil and looked out for a berth. My father will die one of
those days; then I shall be able to live without working."
38 THriRfiSE RAQUIN.
Laurent spoke in quiet tones. He had, in a few words,
described himself fully in relating his characteristic history.
He was thoroughly lazy at heart, with fleshly appetites, and
a decided taste for easy and lasting enjoyments. This
great, powerful frame desired, above all, to have nothing to
do, to wallow from hour to hour in gluttony and idleness.
He would have liked nothing better than to feed well, sleep
well, and fully gratify his passions, without the trouble of
putting out a hand, or undergoing the slightest fatigue.
The profession of the law had alarmed him, and he
shuddered at the notion of tilling the ground. He had
thrown himself into art, hoping to find therein an idle mode
of living ; the brush seemed to him a light instrument to
handle ; besides, he thought success was easy. He dreamed
of a life of cheap voluptuousness, a beautiful life full of
women, of resting on divans, of feastings and drinking
bouts. This dream lasted as long as his father sent sup-
plies. But, as soon as the young man, now thirty years
old, perceived poverty on the horizon, he began to reflect ;
he felt himself a coward at the sight of privations ; he
would not have fasted a whole day for the highest glories of
art. As he told them, he had sent painting to the devil the
day he had discovered that it would never enable him to
gratify his large appetites. His first attempts had been
beneath mediocrity ; his boorish eye gave its character to
his portrayal of nature ; his colours dirty, his buildings
tottering, his faces out of drawing, defied all criticism. Not
feeling much vanity as an artist, he was not inordinately
dejected when he found himself obliged to throw down his
brushes. His only real regret was his college chum's
studio, that vast apartment in which he had so voluptuously
revelled for four or five years. He regretted, too, the
women who came as models, and whose charms were not
beyond his means. This world of sensual enjoyment left
THilRfcSE KAQTJIN. 39
him with keen carnal longings. He was fairly comfortable,
however, with his present clerkship ; he lived an easy
animal life, he liked this daily routine, which did not tire
him, and which left his mind inactive. Two things alone
irritated him : he missed the women, and a dinner at an
eighteen-sou restaurant did not satisfy the gluttonous
appetite of his stomach.
Camille listened and stared at him like an idiot. This
sickly fellow, whose enfeebled and wearied body had never
felt a fleshly desire, dreamed childish dreams of this studio
life described by his friend. He thought of the women
displaying their bare skin. He questioned Laurent.
" So," said he, " there were really women who took their
chemises off before you ? "
" Certainly," replied Laurent, with a smile, and a look
towards Therese, who had turned very pale.
"That must have had a singular effect on you," resumed
Camille, with a childish laugh. "I should have felt
embarrassed. The first time, you must have been quite
Laurent had spread out one of his large hands, the palm
of which he was attentively examining. His fingers quivered
slightly, and his cheeks flushed.
" The very first time," continued he, as if talking to him-
self, " I think I found it quite natural. This artist life is
very amusing, but not remunerative. I had one model
with an adorable warm complexion: firm flesh, dazzling
skin, magnificent bosom, broad hips."
Laurent looked up and saw Therese opposite him, silent
and motionless. The young woman was watching him with
a burning intensity. Her eyes, of a. dull black, seemed two
fathomless depths, and her partly open lips discovered rosy
lights within her mouth. She seemed dazed, overwhelmed ;
she drank in every word.
40 THISRiJSE RAQUIN.
Laurent's glance went from Thgrese to Camille. The
quondam artist restrained a smile. He finished his sentence
with an expressive gesture, large and voluptuous, which the
young wife followed with her eyes. They were at dessert,
and Madame Raquin had gone downstairs to attend to a
When the cloth was removed, Laurent, who had been
silent for some minutes, addressed Camille abruptly :
"I must paint your likeness," said he.
This idea charmed Madame Raquin and her son. Therese
" We are now in summer," resumed Laurent, " and as we
leave the office at four o'clock, I could come here and be
painting two hours every evening. It will be finished in a
" That's it," replied Camille, colouring with pleasure ;
" you can dine with us. I'll have my hair curled, and wear
my black frock-coat.''
The clock struck eight. Grivet and Michaud came in.
Olivier and Suzanne followed.
Camille introduced his friend to the company. Grivet
drew himself up. He detested Laurent, whose salary had,
in his opinion, been increased too rapidly. Besides, it was a
serious matter introducing a new guest: the Raquins'
friends could not receive a stranger with open arms.
Laurent behaved like a jolly good fellow. He took in the
situation, he wished to please, to make a good impression
at once. He told some stories, enlivened the party
with his hearty laugh, and even won over old Grivet him-
Thdrese, on that evening, did not attempt to escape to the
shop. She remained seated until eleven o'clock, playing
and chatting, avoiding Laurent's eye, which, however, was
not directed towards her. The sanguine temperament of
TH&RESE RAQUIN. 41
this fellow, his full tones, his hearty laugh, the powerful and
pungent odour which escaped from his person, disturbed
the young wife, and threw her into a kind of nervous
Laurent, from that day forward, came nearly every evening
to the Raquins*. He lived in the Rue Saint- Victor, opposite
the Port aux Vins, where he hired a little furnished room
for eighteen francs a month ; this room, with a sloping roof
and a skylight window opening like a snuff-box, was hardly
six yards square. Laurent returned home as late as possible
to this garret. Before he met Camille, as he had not money
enough to frequent cafes, he spun out the time at the cheap
restaurant where he dined, smoking pipes and sipping a cup
of coffee with a dash of brandy in it, which cost three sous.
He then strolled home to the Rue Saint- Victor, sauntering
along the quays, sitting down on the benches on fine even-
The shop in the Passage du Pont-Neuf became for him a
charming retreat, warm, quiet, full of friendly words and
ways. He saved the three sous for his coffee, and drank
with relish Madame Raquin's excellent tea. Until ten
o'clock, he stayed there, dozing, digesting, making himself at
home, and never left before he had helped Camille to close
One evening, he brought his easel and his box of colours.
He was to begin Camille's portrait the following day. A
canvas was bought, every preparation was made. At length
the artist set to work in the bed-room of the young people ;
he found there, he said, the most suitable light.
He took three evenings to sketch the head. He touched
the canvas timidly with the charcoal, in little uncertain
THERESE RAQUIN. 43
touches ; his drawing, stiff and laboured, reminded one
grotesquely of the early masters. He copied Camille's fea-
tures as a student copies a lay figure, with a hesitating touch
and an awkward exactness, which lent the face a scowling
expression. On the fourth day, he stuck some atoms of
colour on his palette and began painting with the tips af the
brushes ; he dotted the canvas with little iirty spots, then
he made short lines, close together, lika pencil shading.
At the end of each sitting, Madame Raquin and Camille
went into ecstacies. Laurent said they must be patient, thac
the likeness would strike them later.
From the time the portrait was commenced Therese uever
quitted the impromptu studio. She left her aunt alone
behind the counter ; on the slightest pretext she wenc unstairs
and remained watching Laurent paint.
Ever grave, oppressed, more than ever pale and silent, she
sat and followed the progress of the brush. And yet this
spectacle did not seem to afford her much amusement ; she
came as if drawn by a power, she stayed as if held by a spell.
Laurent turned round occasionally, and smiling asked if the
portrait pleased her. She scarcely replied, shivered, and
relapsed into her state of quiet rapture.
Laurent meditated deeply on his way home at night to
the Rue Saint- Victor ; he argued the point with himself
whether he should or should not become Therese's lover.
" There is a woman," he said to himself, " who will be my
mistress if ever I choose her to be. She is always there,
hanging about me, watching me, measuring me, weighing me.
She trembles, she has a most strange face, mutely passionate.
She most certainly wants a lover ; that is plainly read in her
eyes. Camille is after all not much of a man."
Laurent laughed inwardly, at the thought of his friend's
pallor and leanness. Then he continued to himself :
" She is bored in that shop. I go there because I have
44 THERESE RAQUIN.
nowhere else to go. If I had, I should not often be found
at the Passage du Pont-Neuf. It is damp and dismal,
enough to kill a woman. Most decidedly she admires me ;
then why not I instead of another 2 "
He stopped short, full of self-conceit, and looked with an
absent air at the Seine as it flowed along.
" By Jove ! so much the worse," he cried ; " I will kiss
her the first opportunity. I bet she will fall at once into
He walked on, and began to waver.
"After all, she is ugly," he thought. "She has a long
nose, a big mouth. And, besides, I am not a bit in love
with her. Perhaps I shall get into some bother. This re-
Laurent, who was very prudent, turned these thoughts
over for a full week. He calculated all the possible results
of an intimacy with Therese; he only decided to try his
fortune, when it became clear to him that it was his own
interest to do so.
Therese was to him ugly, it is true, and he did not love
her ; but, after all, she would be no expense to him ; the
women whom he could obtain cheaply were, certainly, neither
prettier nor more beloved. Economy was already advising
him to take his friend's wife. On the other hand, he had
not for a long time satisfied his carnal desires ; money being
scarce, he had denied his flesh, and he did not care to lose
the opportunity of gratifying it a little. Moreover, an
intimacy of this kind could not have unpleasant conse-
quences. Therese would, for her own sake, conceal every-
thing, and he could easily break off with her whenever he
wished ; even supposing Camille discovered all and was
furious, he would annihilate him with one blow if he became
nasty. The question presented itself to Laurent in all its
bearings, as easy and attractive.
THERESE RAQUIN. 45
From this moment he lived in serenity, biding his time.
He had decided to boldly take the first opportunity that
offered. He saw a vista before him of blissful evenings.
All the Kaquins would add to his pleasures : Theiese would
cool his blood ; Madame Eaquin would care for him like a
mother ; Camille, by his conversation, would help to while
away the long evenings in the shop.
The portrait was approaching completion, the opportunities
did not present themselves. Thdrese was always present,
dejected and anxious ; but Camille never left the room, and
Laurent did not see how to get rid of him for an hour. He
was obliged, however, to announce one day that the portrait
would be finished at the next sitting. Madame Eaquin said
they must dine together to celebrate the event.
Next day, when Laurent had given the finishing touch to
the picture, all the family joined in admiring the excellent
likeness. The portrait was wretched, the prevailing tint
dirty grey, with large purple blotches. Laurent could not
use the most brilliant colours without rendering them dingy
and muddy ; he had unconsciously exaggerated the undecided
colouring of his model, and Camille's face had the greenish
hue of a drowned man; the distorted drawing convulsed the
features, thus making the ghastly resemblance the more
striking. But Camille was enchanted; he found that he
had a distinguished appearance on canvas.
When he had sufficiently admired himself, he declared he
must go and get two bottles of champagne. Madame Eaquin
went down again to the shop. The artist was left alone
The young wife remained seated, looking vaguely before
her. She seemed trembling expectantly. Laurent hesitated ;
he examined his canvas, he played with his brushes. Time
was flying, Camille might return, the opportunity would,
perhaps, never recur. The painter turned abruptly and
46 THERESE RAQUItf .
found himself face to face with Therese. They looked at
each other for some seconds.
Then, with a violent movement, Laurent bent down and
pressed her to his breast. He threw back her head, while
crushing her lips with his own. She ■ made a wild, angry
movement of resistance, and, suddenly yielding, slipped to
the ground. They did not utter one word. The act was
silent and brutish.
LAURENT PASSIONATELY EMBRACES THEBESE.
From the very beginning the lovers found their intimacy
absolutely necessary, decreed by fate, and, indeed, quite
natural. At their first interview they addressed each other
familiarly, they embraced, without embarrassment, without
blushes, as if this intimacy had lasted for years. They
lived at ease in these new relations, with perfect tranquillity
They arranged their meetings. Therese not being able
to go out, it was settled that Laurent should visit her. The
young woman explained to him, quite composedly, the plan
she had arranged. The interviews were to be in her own
bedroom. The lover could come in by the alley which com-
muuicated with the Passage, and Therese would open the
stair-case door. At this time, Camille would be at his office,
and Madame Raquin down in the shop. Such audacity
ought to succeed.
Laurent agreed. Prudent though he was, he had a sort
of brute courage, the courage of a man with a mighty fist.
The grave calm air of his mistress decided him to come and
enjoy a passion so boldly offered. He made an excuse to
ask for a couple of hours from the head of his department,
and he hastened to the Passage du Pont-Neuf.
On entering the Passage, he experienced an exquisite
voluptuousness. The dealer in false jewellery was sitting just
facing the door of the alley. He waited for her attention
to be diverted by a young sempstress who came to buy a
brass ring or some ear-rings. Then he rapidly entered the
48 THfiRfiSE RAQUIN.
alley; he mounted the dark, narrow staircase, leaning on
the damp walls. His feet struck against the stone steps ;
at the sound of each blow he felt a burning sensation tra
verse his chest. A door opened. On, the threshold, in a
bright light, he saw Therfese in quite dazzling deshabille,
with her hair in a tight knot behind her head. She closed
the door, she hung upon his neck. From her person there
came a warm aroma of fresh linen and of newly washed
Laurent, to his amazement, found his mistress beautiful.
He had never really seen this woman. Therese, supple and
strong, clasped him in her arms, throwing her head back,
and on her face played burning light, passionate smiles.
This lover's face was as though transfigured ; she looked
madly caressing; she was beaming, with moist lips, and
shining eyes. This woman, lithely twisting in billowy
undulations, was beautiful with a strange beauty full of
transport. Her face looked as though illumined from within,
while her flesh seemed to emit flames. And her burning
blood, her straining nerves, exhaled around her a warm
effluvia, a pungent and penetrating atmosphere.
At the first kiss, she revealed herself a courtesan. Her
unsatiated frame flung itself distractedly into voluptuousness.
She awoke as from a dream, and passion was born within
her. She passed from Camille's feeble arms to Laurent's
powerful embrace, and this contact with a strong man gave
her a sudden shock which awoke her to fleshly desires. All
her nervous woman's instincts burst forth with astounding
violence ; her mother's blood, that African blood which
burned in her veins, began to flow and to throb furiously
in her slender and still almost virgin body. She displayed
herself, offered herself unreservedly, with sovereign im-
modesty. Her whole frame, from head to foot, was agitated
with prolonged thrills
THJ^KEISE RAQTJIN. 49
Never had Laurent met such a woman. He was as-
tonished, ill at ease. Usually his mistresses did not receive
him with such warmth ; he was used to cold, indifferent
kisses, to wearied and surfeited flames. Therese's fits and
sobs almost frightened him, though they excited his sensual
curiosity. When he left her, he reeled like a drunken man.
The next day, when his cunning and prudence had returned,
he debated as to the wisdom of again visiting this woman
whose kisses put him in such a fever. He at first fully de-
cided to stay away. Then he was filled with alarm. He
would forget and never again see Thirese in her nakedness,
with her soft licentious caresses, and yet there she was ever
before his mind's eye, waiting, holding out her arms. The
physical suffering caused by this vision became intolerable.
He yielded, he made an appointment, he returned to the
Passage du Pont-Neuf.
From that day, Therese formed part of his existence.
He did not accept her as yet, but he endured her. He had
hours of terror, moments of prudence, and, in short, this
intimacy disturbed him greatly ; but his fears, his uneasiness,
yielded to his desires. The meetings succeeded each other
Therese had none of these misgivings. She gave herself
up entirely, going straight where her passion urged her.
This woman whom circumstances had led, and who now
went her own way, laid bare her whole being, describing her
Sometimes she passed her arms round Laurent's neck, she
hung on his breast, and, still panting :
" Oh ! if you only knew,'' she would say, " how I have
suffered ! I have been reared in the damp air of a sick-
room. I used to sleep with Camille ; at night I kept as far
as I could from him, disgusted with the sickly odour which
emanated from his body. He was spiteful and obstinate ;
50 THERESE RAQUIN.
he would take no medicine that I did not share ; to please
my aunt I drank some of all the nasty drugs, I wonder I am
not dead. They made me ugly, my poor friend ; they stole
from me all I had to toast of, and you cannot love me as I
She wept, she kissed Laurent, and continued with sullen
" I don't wish them harm. They have reared me and
saved me from poverty. But I should have preferred de-
sertion to their hospitality. I longed for fresh air ; as a
child I longed to trot along the roads, hare-footed in the
dust, begging my bread, living like a gipsy. They tell me
my mother was the daughter of an African chief ; I have
often thought of her, and understood that I partook of her
nature and instincts, I should like to have never left her and
to have crossed the sandy desert tied to her back. Ah !
mine has indeed been a miserable youth ! I still feel sick
with disgust and anger when I remember the long days I
passed in the room where Camille was moaning. I used to
be stooping over the fire, stupidly watching the boiling of
the diet-drinks, feeling my limbs stiffening. And I might
not move, my aunt scolded when I made a noise. Later on
I enjoyed immensely the change to ,the little house by the
river, but I was already stultified, I could hardly walk, I
fell down when I ran. Then I was buried alive in this vile
Tberese breathed hard, she clasped her lover in her arms,
she was having her revenge, and her thin delicate nostrils
were quivering nervously.
" You would hardly believe,'' she went on, " how wicked
they made me. I became a hypocrite, and a liar. They
stifled me with their homely kindness, and I wonder I have
still so much blood left in my veins. I lowered my eyes, I
made my face like theirs, dull and vacuous, I led their
THERESE RAQUIN. 51
lifeless existence. When you first saw me, did I not look
like some animal t I was solemn, depressed, trodden down.
I had no more hope in anything, I intended one day throw-
ing myself into the Seine. But before this dejection, what
nights of rage ! At Vernon, in my little cold room, I bit
my pillow to stifle my cries, I beat myself, I called myself a
coward. My blood was on fire and I could have torn my
flesh Twice I was on the point of escaping, running
straight before me to the sun ; my courage failed, they had
made me as docile as an animal with their enervating kindness
and their loathsome tenderness. Then I became untruthful,
always untruthful. I remained there so gentle and silent,
yet dreaming all the while of striking and biting."
She stopped, wiping her moist lips on Laurent's neck.
Then she added, after a pause :
" I don't know why I consented to marry Camille ; I did
not refuse, from a kind of disdainful indifference. The poor
child excited my pity. When I played with him, I felt my
fingers sink into his limbs as though they were lumps of
clay. I took him, because my aunt offered him to me, and
I never intended to disturb myself for him. And I found
in my husband the little delicate boy with whom I used to
sleep at six years old. He was just as frail, just as com-
plaining, and he retained the unpleasant sickly odour which
used formerly to disgust me so much. I tell you all this
that you may not be jealous. A sort of repugnance rose in
my throat ; I thought of the drugs I had swallowed, I shrank
from him, and passed terrible nights. But you, you—"
And Therese started up, bending back her fingers in
Laurent's great hands, looking at his massive shoulders, his
" You, I love, I have loved you from the moment Camille
pushed you into the shop. Perhaps you despise me for my
entire and immediate surrender. True, I scarce know how
52 TH&KfeSE BAQUIN
that happened. I am proud and passionate. I could have
beaten you, the first day, when you embraced me in this
room. I don't know why I loved you; I almost think I
hated you. Your presence irritated me, made me suffer ;
when you were there, my nerves were stretched fit to break,
my head felt light, I saw everything in red. Oh ! how I
suffered ! And I sought this suffering, I longed for your
coming, I hung about your chair to walk amidst your breath,
to touch your clothes with mine. It seemed as if your blood
blew warmly upon me as I passed, and it was this kind of
ardent atmosphere in which you were enveloped, which
attracted and held me to your side, in spite of my secret
resistance. You remember when you were painting here :
a fatal power drew me to your side, I inhaled your breath
with cruel delight. I understood that I must seem begging
for kisses, I was ashamed of my slavery, I felt I must fall if
you touched me. But I yielded to my cowardice, I shudderd
with cold while waiting for you to take me in your arms."
Then Therese ceased, quivering, proud, and avenged.
She held Laurent intoxicated on her breast, and that bare
and icy room witnessed scenes of ardent passion, of brutish
licence. Their voluptuous frenzy increased with every
The young woman seemed to exult in audacious effrontery.
She never hesitated ; never feared. She ilung herself into
adultery with a sort of frank energy, braving peril, finding
pleasure in danger. When expecting her lover, she would
tell her aunt she was going upstairs to rest a little ; and,
when he was there, she walked about, chatted, acted openly,
without once thinking of avoiding noise. Sometimes, at the
beginning, Laurent grew nervous.
" Good heavens ! " he would whisper to Therese, " don't
make such a noise. Madame Raquin will come up."
" Nonsense ! " she would reply, laughing, " you are
THtiKfcSE KAQUIN. 53
always trembling. She is glued behind her counter ; what
should she come here for? She would be too much afraid
of being robbed. Besides, after all, let her come, if she likes.
You can hide. She doesn't alarm me. I love you.''
These words did not reassure Laurent very much.
Passion had not yet lulled his sly boorish prudence. Soon,
however, habit made him accept, with not overmuch terror,
the dangers of these meetings in broad daylight, in
Camille's bedroom, only a few steps from the old lady.
His mistress told him that danger spares those who face it
boldly, and she was right. Never could the lovers have
found a safer retreat than this room, where no one would
have dreamt of seeking them. They satisfied their lustful
desires in incredible peace.
One day, however, Madame Kaquin did go up, fearing her
niece was ill. The young woman had been nearly three
hours upstairs. She had had the audacity to leave the
door which led to the dining-room unbolted.
When Laurent heard the aunt's heavy tread mounting
the stairs, he was in a fright, and feverishly sought his hat
and waistcoat. Therese began laughing at his curious
expression. She took him firmly by the arm, pushed him
down in a corner near the foot of the bed, and said in
low quiet tones :
" Stay there, don't move.''
She threw over him any garments of his that were lying
about, and over the whole a white petticoat of her own
which she had taken off. All this was done deftly and
quickly, without any flurry. Then she lay down again,
half dressed, her hair undone, still heated and quivering.
Madame Raquin gently opened the door and approached
the bed with muffled tread. Her niece feigned sleep.
Laurent was perspiring under the white petticoat.
" Therese, my child," asked the old lady, " are you ill 1 "
54 THERESE RAQUIN.
Thdrfese opened her eyes, yawned, turned away and
replied in a suffering tone that her head was splitting.
She besought her aunt to let her sleep a little. The old
lady went off as quietly as she had come.
The two lovers, silently laughing, embraced each other
with passionate violence.
"You see," said Therese triumphantly, "that we have
nothing to fear here. All these people are blind ; they are
not in love."
Another day the young woman had a fantastic notion.
She was sometimes almost delirious, like a mad woman.
The tabby cat Francois was sitting on his haunches in the
very middle of the room. Solemn, motionless, he fixed his
round eyes on the two lovers. He seemed carefully to
examine them, without lowering his lids, lost in a sort of
" Look at Francois," said Therese to Laurent. "One might
almost fancy he understands, and is going to tell all to-
night to Camille. Wouldn't it be funny if he began talking
in the shop one of these days ; he knows some fine tales
This idea of Francois talking highly diverted the young
woman. Laurent looked at the cat's large green eyes, and
"This is what he would do," continued Therese. "He
would stand up, and pointing with his paw first to me and
next to you, he would exclaim : ' This lady and gentleman
embrace each other considerably in the bedroom ; they do
not mind me, but as their guilty love disgusts me, I beg
you to send them to prison ; then they cannot disturb my
siesta any longer.' "
Therese joked like a child, she imitated the cat, she
stretched out her hands like claws, she gave feline undula-
tions to her shoulders. Francois, sitting as motionless as
THfiRfiSE RAQUIN. 53
stone, continued contemplating her ; his eyes alone seemed
to have life in them ; and, in the corners of his jaw, there
were two deep furrows, which gave a most comical expres-
sion to this inanimate head.
Laurent felt his blood run cold. He did not enter into
Therese's fun. He rose up and put the cat out of the room.
In reality he was frightened. His mistress did not yet
possess him utterly ; there still remained with him a little
of the uneasiness he had felt when first he found himself in
In the evening, down in the shop, Laurent was perfectly
happy. He generally returned from the office with Camille.
Madame Raquin had conceived quite a motherly affection
for him ; she knew he was pinched for means, living in an
attic, feeding poorly, and she had told him once for all that
he would always find a place laid for him at her table. She
loved him with that noisy affection often shown by old
women to those who come from their native place, and form
a link with their past.
The young man made the most of this hospitality. On
quitting the office, he and Camille would take a walk along
the quays ; both enjoyed this intimacy ; it helped to pass
the time as they chatted and strolled along. Then they
returned home and partook of Madame Raquin's soup.
Laurent would coolly open the shop door as though he were
master; he sat astride the chairs, smoking and expector-
ating, and making himself at home.
Therese's presence did not in the least embarrass him.
He treated her with rough friendliness, he joked, and paid
her silly compliments without moving a muscle of his face.
Camille laughed, and, as his wife only replied in mono-
syllables, he firmly believed they de'tested each other. One
day he even reproached Therese for her coldness to his
Laurent had accomplished his project: he had become
the wife's lover, the husband's friend, the mother's spoilt
child. Never had he been able so delightfully to satisfy all
TH^KfeSE RAQUIN. 57
his appetites. He basked in the rays of infinite enjoyment
shed upon him by the Eaquin family. Besides which, his
position in this family seemed to him quite natural. He
was most familiar with Camille without anger or remorse.
He was not even guarded in his words or gestures, he felt
such confidence in his own calm prudence ; the selfishness
with which he enjoyed his good fortune protected him from
any mistake. In the shop, his mistress became like any
other woman, whom he must not kiss and who had no
existence for him. If he never embraced her before the
others, it was because he feared he would never set foot in
the house again. This eventuality alone stopped him ;
otherwise, he would have laughed at the grief of Camille
and his mother. He never contemplated what might result
from the discovery of his criminal intercourse. He con-
sidered he was acting simply as any other poor, starving
man would have done under similar circumstances. Hence
his edifying quiescence, his prudent audacity, his attitude of
Therese, more nervous, more agitated than he, was forced
to play a part. She played it to perfection, thanks to the
hypocrisy implanted in her by her education. For nearly
fifteen years she had deceived, stifling her cravings, appear-
ing dull and sleepy by an effort of implacable will. It cost
her little now to place over her countenance a dead, icy
mask. When Laurent entered he found her serious, sulky,
her nose lengthened, her lips attenuated. She was ugly,
sullen, unapproachable. After all, she was exaggerating
nothing. She was playing her old r61e, without arousing
attention by increased abruptness. True, she felt a bitter
enjoyment in deceiving Camille and Madame Raquin ; she
was not like Laurent, sunk in the animal enjoyment of his
appetites, unmindful of duty; she knew she was doing
wrong, and she had fierce longings to rise from table and
58 THERESE RAQUIN.
embrace Laurent on the lips, to show her husband and her
aunt that she was no fool and that she had a lover.
Sometimes a flush of happiness would suffuse her ; then,
excellent actress as she was, she could not resist singing
when her lover was away, and she was not afraid of betray-
ing herself. These sudden outbursts of gaiety charmed
Madame Raquin, who often accused her niece of being too
grave. The young woman bought pots of flowers to decor-
ate her bedroom window ; then she had the room re-
papered, bought a carpet, curtains, and new violet ebony
furniture. All this luxury was for Laurent.
Nature and circumstances seemed to have made this man
and woman for each other, and to have thrown them to-
gether. Between them, the woman nervous and hypo-
critical, the man sanguine and coarse, they made a strongly
united couple. They completed and protected each other.
In the evening, at table, in the pale lamp-light, one felt the
force of their union, looking from the thick smiling face of
Laurent to Th^rese's mute, impenetrable mask.
Those were quiet, happy evenings. Friendly words rose
in the silence of the cool transparent shadows. They closed
in round the table ; after dessert, the talk ran on the
thousand trifles of the day, the memories of yesterday, the
hopes of the morrow. Camille loved Laurent as much as
his selfish, satisfied nature allowed, and Laurent seemed to
return his affection; they exchanged phrases of devotion,
friendly gestures and kind glances. Madame Raquin, with
placid countenance, felt perfect peace among her children,
and in the quiet atmosphere they breathed. One would
have thought this a gathering of old acquaintances, who
knew each other's hearts, and who slept peacefully in mutual
faith in each other's friendship.
Therese, motionless, quiet like the rest, contemplated
these vulgar pleasures, these smiling abstractions. And in
THtiRfiSE RAQUEST. 59
her heart there was wild laughter ; her whole being mocked
them while her aspect was coldly rigid. She reminded herself,
chuckling inwardly, that some hours before she was in the
next room, half naked, on Laurent's breast ; she mentally
recalled every detail of that afternoon of mad passion, she
enjoyed it all again in memory, contrasting that burning
scene with the lifeless reality before her eyes. Ah ! how
she was deceiving these good people, and how the thought
of her triumphantly audacious deceit delighted her ! And
it was there, a few paces off, behind that thin partition, that
she received a man ; it was there that she wallowed in his
adulterous embraces. And now, at this hour, her lover
became a stranger to her, a friend of her husband, a sort of
stupid intruder for whom she must not care. This atrocious
comedy, these deceptions in her life, this contrast between
the burning kisses of the day and the acted indifference of
the evening, gave a fresh impulse to the young woman's
When Madame Eaquin and Camille happened to go
downstairs, Therese sprang up, fastened her lips silently,
with brutish sensuality, on her lover's lips, and remained
thus, panting, stifling, until steps were heard on the stairs.
Then, with rapid movement, she resumed her place, and her
sullen expression. Laurent, in quiet tones, continued his
interrupted conversation with Camille. It was a flash of
passion, rapid and blinding, in a leaden sky.
The Thursday evening was a little more animated.
Laurent, who, at these gatherings, was wearied to death,
made it a duty, however, not to miss one of them : prudence
counselled him to be known and esteemed by Camille's
friends. He had to endure the twaddle of Grivet and old
Michaud ; the latter with his everlasting stories of theft
and murder ; the former of his employees, his chiefs, his
staff. The young man took refuge with Olivier and Suz-
60 THfiRfeSE EAQITIN.
anne, whose stupidity seemed a little less wearisome. Besides,
he always hastened to call for the dominoes.
It was always on Thursday evening that Therese fixed
the day and hour for their assignations. In the little confu-
sion of departure, when Madame Eaquin and Camille
accompanied their guests to the front door, the young
woman approached Laurent, spoke to him in a whisper, and
pressed his hand. Sometimes even, when all had their
backs turned, she embraced him, out of a sort of bravado.
For eight months this life of excitement and reaction
lasted. The lovers lived in complete bliss ; Therese never
was wearied, never discontented now ; Laurent, feasted,
caressed, fatter than ever, had but one fear, that any acci-
dent should interrupt this glorious existence.
One afternoon, as Laurent was about to leave the office to
visit Therese, who was expecting him, his chief sent for him,
and told him he could not in future permit him to absent
himself. He had abused their leniency. The Company
had decided to dismiss him if he went out again during
Glued to his stool, he was in despair until it was time to
leave. He must keep his situation ; he could not afford to
lose it. In the evening he was tortured by Therese's
annoyed expression. He did not know how to explain his
absence to his mistress. While Camille was closing the
shop, he approached her quickly :
" We cannot have any more meetings,' - said he, in a low
voice. " My chief refuses me any further leave of absence.''
Camille came back. Laurent had to go without explaining
more, leaving Therese aghast at this sudden information.
Exasperated, unwilling to admit that anyone could trouble
her amours, she passed a sleepless night, building impossible
plans for interviews. The following Thursday procured her
only a minute's speech with Laurent. Their anxiety was
heightened by their ignorance of a safe meeting-place for
consultation and explanation. The young woman made
another appointment with her lover, and he disappointed
her a second time. From that moment she had but one
fixed idea — to see him at all hazards.
For a fortnight Laurent had been unable to see Therese
62 THERESE RAQUIN.
alone. Then he felt how necessary this woman had become
to him ; the habit of embracing her had created new appe-
tites, a£utelj__sxacting^- He no longer felt uneasy in his
"mistress's arms ; he sought her caresses with the pertinacity
of a hungry animal. A sanguine passion had developed in
his muscles. Now that his mistress was separated from him,
this passion declared itself with blind violence ; he loved
furiously. Conscience held no sway in this brutish nature ;
he obeyed his instincts ; he followed the promptings of his
organism. He would have gone into fits of laughter a
year before if he had been told he would become the slave
of a woman, to the extent of disturbing his own ease. His
animal passions had been secretly at work unbeknown to
him, and had ended by casting him, bound hand and foot,
as a prey to Therese's fierce caresses. Now he dreaded he
might forget his usual prudence ; he did not dare to come
in the evening to the Passage du Pont-Neuf, for fear of doing
something foolish. He was no longer master of his actions.
His mistress, with her feline grace, her nervous flexibility,
had insinuated herself into every fibre of bis frame. He
required this woman to enable him to live, as one requires to
drink, to eat.
He would certainly have done something rash had he not
received a letter from Therese, advising him to stay at home
the following day. His mistress promised to come and see
him about eight o'clock in the evening.
On leaving the office, he got rid of Camille, with the
excuse of being tired and wanting to go at once to bed.
Therese, after dinner, also played her part. She spoke of a
customer who had removed from the neighbourhood without
paying her bill, and she acted the harsh creditor, announcing
her intention of going to try and get her money. The cus-
tomer was now living at Batignolles. Madame Raquin and
Camille considered the journey too long for her, and the
THft&fiSK RAQUIN. 63
result doubtful ; however, they made no further demur, and
let Therese go without any misgivings.
The young women hurried off to the Port-aux-Vins,
slipping on the greasy pavement, jostling the passers-by in
her haste to arrive. Her face became wet with perspiration ;
her hands were burning. She seemed like a drunken
woman. She quickly mounted the stairs of the lodging-
house. On the sixth storey, panting, with wild looks, she
perceived Laurent, leaning over the banisters, awaiting
She entered the attic. Her ample skirts had hardly room
enough in the narrow space. She tore off her bonnet with
one hand, and leant half fainting against the bed. The sky-
light window, wide open, admitted the fresh evening air on
to the burning couch. The lovers remained long in the
wretched garret as in a snug hole. Suddenly Therese heard
the clock of the Eglise de la Pitie 1 strike ten. She would
willingly have been deaf. She rose up painfully and ex-
amined this attic which she had not before noticed. She
put on her bonnet, tied the strings, and said slowly, as she
sat down :
" I must go."
Laurent was now on his knees before her. He took her
"Good-bye," said she without moving.
"No, not only good-bye," cried he, "that is not sufficient.
What day will you return '! "
She looked him in the face.
" You wish to know the truth ? " said she. " Well !
really, I don't think I shall ever return. I have no pretext,
I can invent none."
" Then, we must say farewell."
" No, I cannot ! I will not ! "
She spoke these words in frightened, angrj tones She
64 THtiRfiSE RAQUIN.
added, more quietly, without knowing what she said, with-
out rising from her chair :
" I am going."
Laurent pondered. His thoughts were of Camille.
" I have nothing to say against him,'' said he at last,
without naming him ; " but he is really a great nuisance to
us. Could you not get rid of him, send him somewhere on
a very long journey 1 "
" Oh ! yes, on a journey ! " replied the young woman,
tossing her head. " You think a man like that would
consent to travel. There is but one journey from which
there is no return. But he will live to bury us all ; such
weaklings never die."
A pause ensued. Laurent crawled on his knees, pressing
against his mistress, laying his head on her bosom.
f " I have often dreamed," said he, " of passing the whole
j night with you, of falling asleep in your arms, and of awak-
ing in the morning beneath your kisses. I would like to be
/ your husband. You understand 1 "
j^"Yes, yes," replied Therese, shivering.
And she suddenly bent over Laurent's face which she
covered with kisses. She rubbed her bonnet strings against
his rough beard ; she forgot she was dressed and that she
was crumpling her clothes. She sobbed, she panted out
words in the midst of her tears.
" Do not say such things," she cried, " or I shall not have
strength to leave you, I shall be unable to tear myself
away.- Give me courage instead ; tell me we shall meet
again. Am I not necessary to you, and shall we not some
day find the means of living together 1 "
" Well then, come again, come to-morrow," replied
Laurent, whose trembling arms encircled her waist.
"But I cannot come. I told you so, I have no pretext"
She twisted her arms about. She went on :
THEKfcSE RAQUIN'. 65
" Oh ! it is not the scandal that alarms me. When I go
home I will, if you wish, tell Camille that you are my lover,
and I will come back and sleep here. It is for you I tremble ;
I do not wish to disturb your life, I wish to make it
The young man's prudent instincts were aroused.
" You are right,' - said he, " we must not act like children.
Ah ! if only your husband were to die."
" If my husband were to die," repeated Therese slowly.
"We could marry each other, we should then have nothing
to fear, we should revel in love. What a happy and
delightful existence ! "
The young woman rose up. With pale cheeks, she gazed
darkly at her lover ; her lips quivered.
" People die sometimes," she murmured, at last. " Only
it is dangerous for the survivors."
Laurent was silent.
"You see," she continued, "all the known, means are
" You have misunderstood me," said he quietly. " I am
not a fool, I want to love you in peace. I was only think-
ing accidents happen every day, the foot may slip, a tile
may fall. You understand? In the latter case, the wind
alone is to blame."
His voice was strange. He smiled and added caressingly :
" Now, go love, and make your mind easy, we will live
and be happy. As you cannot come, leave it to me. If we
are months without a meeting, remember that I am working
for our future bliss."
He pressed Therese to his heart, and she opened the door
" You are mine, mine alone 1 " he asked. " Swear to
give yourself wholly to me at any moment that I may claim
66 THERESE RAQU1N.
" Yes," cried the young woman, " I am yours; do with me
what you will."
They remained a moment wild but yet silent. Then
Therese abruptly tore herself away, and, without turning
her head, left the attic and went downstairs. Laurent
listened to her retreating footsteps.
When all was still, he returned to his room and got into
bed. The sheets were warm. He was stifling in this
narrow hole which Therese had left full of the ardour of
her passion. He seemed still inhaling her breath ; she had
been there, shedding penetrating emanations, a scent of
violets, and now he could only clasp in his arms the shadowy
phantom of his mistress as it hung about him ; he felt the
fever of rekindled and unsatisfied desire. He did not
close the window. Lying flat on his back, with bare arms
and outspread hands, seeking coolness, he meditated, gazing
the while on the square of dark blue which the window
frame cut out of the sky.
Till dawn of day, the same idea revolved in his head..
Before Therese's visit, he had not contemplated killing
Camille ; he had spoken of the young man's death, moved
by circumstances, irritated at the thought of separation
from his mistress. Thus was revealed a new phase of his
unbridled nature : he began to dream of murder in the
intoxication of his adultery.
Now, grown calm, alone in the middle of the quiet night,
his thoughts were bent on killing. The idea of death, sug-
gested to him as a last resource, between two burning kisses,
returned implacable and persistent. Laurent, shaken by
sleeplessness, enervated by the pungent odours Therese had
left behind her, planned ambushes, calculated accidents, dis-
covered the advantages he would derive from being an as-
All his self-interest urged him to the crime. He told
THERESE RAQUIN. 67
himself that his father, the peasant at Jeufosse, was not
thinking of dying yet; he might have to remain a clerk another
ten years, dining meanly at a cheap eating-house, living up
in a garret, without a wife. This prospect exasperated him.
On the other hand, Camille dead, he would marry Therese,
become Madame Eaquin's heir, leave the office and bask in
the sun. Then he pleased his fancy with a vision of this
idle life, doing nothing but eat and sleep whilst patiently
awaiting his father's death. And when his dream melted
into reality, he found Camille in his path, he clinched his
fists as if to fell him with a blow.
Laurent wanted Therese ; he wanted to have her always
within reach, and for himself alone. If he did not get rid
of the husband, the wife would never be his. She had told
him she could not return. He would willingly have carried
her off, out of reach, but then they would both have starved.
The lesser risk would be to kill the husband ; no scandal
need ensue, he only removed a man to take his place. In
his boorish selfishness he considered this measure excellent
and natural. His native prudence even counselled this rapid
He tossed about on his bed, all in a perspiration, turning
on his damp face, pressing it to the pillow that had sup-
ported Therfese's dishevelled tresses. He took the sheet be-
tween his parched lips, he inhaled the light perfume still
pervading it, and he lay there, panting, half smothered,
seeing bars of fire pass along his closed eyelids. He asked
himself how he could best kill Camille. Then, when his
breath failed, he bounded over on his back, and, with
dilated eyes, receiving full in the face the cold air from the
window, be sought in the stars, in the dark blue square of
sky, a method of murder, a plan of assassination.
He found none. As he had told his mistress, he was
neither a child nor a fool ; he would not touch either dngger
68 THriRJ&SE RAQUTN.
or poison. He must commit a sly secret crime, accomplished
without danger, a diabolical suffocation, without noise, with-
\ out shock, a simple disappearance. In vain did passion rouse
him and urge him on; his whole being imperiously demanded
caution. He was too cowardly, too voluptuous, to risk his
tranquillity. He would kill, but only to ensure a calm and
. happy existence.
Gradually sleep overpowered him. The fresh air had ex-
orcised Therese's warm and fragrant phantom. Laurent,
weary, appeased, yielded himself up to a quiet dreamy tor-
por. As he fell asleep, he decided that he would await a
favourable opportunity, and his thoughts, growing more and
more indistinct, rocked him off to the refrain : " I will kill
him, I will kill him." Five minutes later, he was uncon-
scious, breathing with serene regularity.
The>ese arrived home at eleven o'clock, her head on
fire, her mind on the strain. She arrived at the Passage du
Pont-Neuf unconscious of the road she had traversed. She
seemed to have just left Laurent, so filled were her ears with
the words he had spoken. She found Madame Raquin and
Camille anxious and full of kind attention; she replied curtly
to their questionsTsaying she had had all her trouble for noth-
ing, and had been kept waiting a full hour for an omnibus.
When she went to bed, she found the sheets cold and
damp. Her limbs, still burning, shuddered with repug-
nance. Camille was. not long in falling asleep, and Therese
gazed and gazed at that leaden-hued face resting stupidly,
with open mouth, on the pillow. She drew away from him
she felt a longing to cram her clinched fist into that mouth.
fill IS ! lis
THEBESE -WATCHING CAMILLE ASLEEP.
Neaelt three weeks had passed. Laurent called at the shop
every evening ; he seemed wearied, as though by illness ; he
had pale bluish rings round his eyes ; his lips were dis-
coloured and swollen. But his apathy was unchanged ; he
still looked Camille full in the face — he still manifested the
same blunt friendship towards him. Madame Eaquin petted
her son's friend all the more since she became aware of the
latent fever which seemed to be wasting him.
Therese had resumed her mute and surly expression. She
was more motionless, more 1 impenetrable, more docile than
ever. Laurent might not be in existence as far as she was
concerned ; she hardly looked at him, spoke to him but sel-
dom, treated him with the most complete indifference.
Madame Eaquin, whose kindly nature was pained by such
conduct, would often say to the young man :
" Don't take any notice of my niece's coldness. I know
her thoroughly ; she seems cold enough outwardly, but she
has a warm heart. She is the tenderest, the most devoted
girl in the world." '
The lovers had no more stolen interviews. Since the
night in the Eue Saint- Victor, they had never again met in
private. In the evenings, sitting opposite to each other, to
all appearance composed and utter strangers to each other's
thoughts, a flood of passion, of terror, and of lust, was boil-
ing behind the calm faces of both. And Therese gave way
to fits of anger, to unkind acts, and .cruel remarks; while
Laurent showed every now and then some trace of his brutish
70 THERESE raquin.
nature, of Lis painful indecision. They themselves did not
dare to sound the depths of their own hearts, or to venture
among the rank fumes of the evil thoughts which filled their
When they had a chance, behind some door, they would
silently squeeze each other's hands, almost hard enough to
crush them, with a rough swift grip. They would both have
been glad if the other's flesh could have adhered to their
burning fingers. That pressure of the hands was the only
caress they had left to appease their desires. Into it they
condensed their whole being. They asked each other for no
more. They were waiting.
One Thursday evening, before sitting down to their game,
the guests of the Raquin establishment had as usual a little
chat. One of their chief topics was the former profession of
old Michaud ; they would get him to tell the story of the
adventures — blood-curdling or extraordinary — in which he
had played a part. Then Grivet and Camille would listen
to the ex-commissary of police, with gaping mouth and hair
on end, like children hearing " Blue Beard " or " Tom
Thumb " for the first time. It frightened them, and it
That particular day, Michaud, who had been giving them
the account of a horrible murder, with an elaboration of
detail that made tfyem shudder, concluded, shaking his head
as he spoke :
'• And, after all, there is a lot that we shall never know.
How many crimes there are which never come to light !
How many murderers escape Imman justice ! "
" What ! " cried Grivet, in astonishment, " do you mean
to say that you believe that there are villains walking about
in the street, like anybody else, who have committed mur-
ders, and who are not arrested."
Olivier smiled with a disdainful air.
THtiRESE EAQUIN. 71
" My dear sir," he answered in his pedantic voice, " if they
are not arrested, it is because it is not known that they have
committed a murder.''
Grivet did not seem convinced by this argument. Camille
came to his help.
" For my part, I agree with Monsieur Grivet," he said,
with all the importance of his stupidity. " I prefer to believe
that the police do their duty, and that I shall never be
jostled by a murderer in the street."
Olivier interpreted these words into a personal attack.
" Of course the police does its duty," he exclaimed with
some irritation. " But we can't do what is impossible.
There are some villains who have studied crime in the devil's
own academy ; the Archangel Michael himself could not
catch them. Don't you think so, father 1 "
"Why, yes," agreed old Michaud. "It so happens that
when I was at Vernon — you will perhaps remember
the case, Madame Kaquin — a waggoner was murdered
on the high road. The body was found in a ditch, cut
to pieces. The murderer has not been caught yet. He
may be alive to this day ; he may be a neighbour of ours ;
and perhaps Monsieur Grivet will meet him on his way
Grivet turned as white as a sheet. He hardly dared look
over his shoulder for fear he should see the waggoner's
murderer standing behind him. Besides, he enjoyed having
been so thoroughly frightened.
"Oh, come now," he stammered, scarcely knowing what
he was saying — " oh, come now, I'm not going to believe
that. Besides, I can give you a case in point. A servant
was once sent to prison for having stolen a silver dish from
her master. Two months afterwards, as they were felling a
tree, the dish was found in a magpie's nest. The thief was
a magpie. The servant was released immediately. So you
72 THriBJ&SE RAQTJIN.
see that, in the long run, the guilty one will always be
brought to book."
Grivet looked round triumphantly. Olivier was on the
" Of course," he said, " they locked up the magpie ? "
" That is not the point of Monsieur Grivet's argument,"
retorted Camille, who objected to his chief being chaffed.
" Mother, give us the dominoes."
While Madame Kaquin went to look for the box, the
young man continued, addressing himself to Michaud :
" So you confess now — the police is powerless, isn't it ?
There are murderers walking about in broad daylight ? "
" Well, I'm afraid there 'are, worse luck ! " answered the
"I declare," concluded Grivet, "it's positively — im-
moral 1 "
During this conversation Therese and Laurent had not
said a word. They had not even smiled at Grivet's nonsense.
Both leaning forward on their elbows, both rather pale, they
were listening with a dull stare.
Once their eyes met, black and burning like coals. And
little beads of perspiration appeared at the roots of Therese's
hair, and Laurent shuddered slightly once or twice as with
a cold chill.
Sometimes on Sundays, when the weather was fine, Camille
would oblige Therese to come out with him for a walk in
the Champs-Elysees. The young woman would have pre-
ferred to remain within the damp shade of the shop; it
tired her, it bored her to be dragged along the streets on her
husband's arm, while every other shop brought him to a
standstill, and gave him food for astonishment, or reflection,
or idiotic contemplation. But Camille would have his way ;
he liked to show his wife about ; whenever he met any of
the clerks from the office, particularly any of his superiors,
he was delighted to be able, in the company of " Madame,"
to exchange a greeting with them. Besides, he was accus-
tomed to walk for walking's sake, hardly speaking a word,
stiff and awkward in his Sunday clothes, dragging one foot
after another, boorish and conceited. Therese suffered greatly
at being arm-in-arm with such a man.
On these occasions, Madame Raquin invariably escorted
her children to the end of the Passage, and kissed them as
if they were starting on a journey. And then there was
always a whole series of bits of advice and of earnest en-
"Above all," she would say, "mind you don't get run
over. There are so many vehicles in this blessed Paris !
Promise me you will keep out of the crowd ! "
And at last she would let them get away, and stand
watching them until they turned the corner. Then only
she -would go back into the shop. Any long walk was out
74 THftRilSE RAQUIN.
of the question for her, as her legs were beginning to fail
At other times, though not so often, the young couple
would go further afield; they went to Saint-Ouen or
Asnieres, and had some fried fish at one of the water-side
restaurants. These were looked upon as days of reckless
extravagance, and formed the subject of conversation for a
whole month beforehand. It was with a better grace,
almost with pleasure, that Therese would agree to be treated
to such excursions as these ; for did they not keep her out
in the fresh air until ten or eleven o'clock at night 1 Saint-
Ouen, with its green islands, reminded her of Vernon ; it
roused in her once again the instinctive affection which, as
a child, she had had for the Seine. She would sit on the
bank, dipping her hand into the river, and feeling herself
revive in the heat, of the sun which was tempered by the
fresh summer breeze. While she was heedlessly soiling and
tearing her dress upon the stones and the wet earth, Camille
would spread out his pocket-handkerchief neatly, and squat
down at her side with infinite precaution. Latterly they
almost always took Laurent with them; and, with his
laughter and boorish strength, he was the life and soul of
One Sunday Camille, Therese and Laurent, started for
Saint-Ouen after breakfast, at about eleven o'clock. This
excursion had been planned a long time, and it was to be
the last of the season. They were getting well into autumn,
and the evenings were becoming chilly with the approach of
That morning, however, the sky had lost none of its
summer blue. It was warm in the sun and pleasant in the
shade ; and so they decided to take advantage of the last of
the fine weather.
The three merry-makers departed in a cab, with the -eld
TH^KfcSE RAQUIN. 75
lady's doleful warnings and anxious recommendations ringing
in their ears. They drove across Paris and dismissed the
cab at the fortifications ; then they made their way to Saint-
Ouen along the high road. It was twelve o'clock. The
path was covered with dust and, in the hot glare of the sun,
dazzled the eyes like the whiteness of snow. The air was
heavy with heat. Therese, arm-in-arm with Camille, was
walking along languidly in the shade of her parasol ; while
he was fanning himself with a huge pocket-handkerchief.
Behind them came Laurent, whose neck the sun was roast-
ing without any apparent inconvenience to him; he was
whistling, kicking aside the stray stones, and now and then
watching the shapely figure of his mistress with flashing
When they arrived at Saint-Ouen, their first thought was
where to find a clump of trees — a grassy carpet spread in the
shade. They crossed over to an island and entered a coppice.
The fallen leaves covered the ground with a ruddy mantle
which crackled under the feet with a dry rustling. The
trunks of the trees shot up towards the sky, straight and
serried as the columns in a Gothic cathedral ; their branches
trailed down almost to the excursionists' heads, whose horizon
was thus bounded by the bronzed arches of dying leaves,
and the black or white stems of aspen and oak. It was a
wild, melancholy spot, a quiet cool glade, and all around
them they heard the splashing of the Seine.
Camille had picked out a dry place, and had sat himself
down, taking great care not to injure the tails of his coat.
Therese had subsided among the leaves with a great rustling
of skirts ; she was almost hidden by the folds of her dress
which were billowing about her, and displaying one of her
legs as high as the knee. Laurent was admiring it at his
ease, lying full length on the ground, his chin buried in the
earth, and listening to his friend who was grumbling at the
76 THriEJfcSE EAQUIN.
Government for not turning all the islands of the Seine into
pleasure-gardens, with seats, and gravelled walks, and clipped
trees, the same as at the Tuileries.
They remained about three hours in the glade, waiting
until the heat of the sun should abate a little, when they
could explore the neighbourhood before dinner. Camille
talked a good deal about his office ; he told several stupid
stories ; and then, tired out, he let himself sink back and
went to sleep, having previously placed his hat over his eyes.
Long before this Th^rese, with closed lids, was pretending
Then Laurent wriggled himself gently up to the young
woman ; and, putting forth his lips, kissed her boot and her
ankle. And this leather, this white stocking that he was
kissing, seemed to burn his mouth. The sharp odours of the
earth, the light perfumes clinging to The'rese mingled to-
gether and penetrated him, heating his blood, and irritating
his nerves. For a whole month he had been living in a state
of fuming celibacy. The walk in the sun, along the high
road to Saint-Ouen, had kindled a fire within him. Now he
was there, in the depths of an unfrequented retreat, sur-
rounded by the great voluptuousness of shade and silence,
and yet he was unable to clasp to his breast this woman who
belonged to him ! Perhaps her husband would awake, would
see him, would upset all his astute calculations. This man
was always in the way. And the lover, still stretched at
full length, hidden behind the skirts, quivering and irritated,
pressed silent kisses upon the boot and the white stocking.
Therese never moved ; she might have been dead. Laurent
thought she really was asleep.
He rose, aching in every limb, and leant against a tree.
Then he saw that the young woman's great eyes were wide
open, glittering, and fixed on vacancy. Her face, resting
between her two arms bent back under her head, was white
THERESE RAQUIN. 77
with a dull pallor, and rigid as marble. Therese was deep
in thought. Her glassy eyes were like some fathomless
abyss where nothing but blackest night was to be seen.
She never moved, she never gave a glance at Laurent stand-
ing behind her.
Her lover gazed upon her, almost alarmed at seeing her
so motionless and so silent beneath his caresses. That
white, lifeless face, buried in the folds of the skirts, filled
him with a sort of terror for all the passion it aroused. He
would have liked to bend forward, and close those great
wakeful eyes with a kiss. But Camille was asleep there,
almost in the skirts also. The poor creature, in an uneasy
attitude which brought out all his bodily defects, was snor-
ing a little ; under the hat, which half covered his face, you
could see his open mouth distorted by some dream into a
ridiculous grimace ; a few red hairs, scantily sprinkled over
his weak chin, gave a dirtier hue to his sallow face, and, as
his head was well thrown back, his thin wrinkled neck was
in full view, with a prominent and ruddy Adam's apple which
heaved at every snore. Camille's appearance as he lay
wallowing there was ignoble and irritating.
Laurent, who was looking at him, raised his heel with a
sudden impulse. He was about to smash in that face at one
Therese repressed a scream. She turned still paler, and
shut her eyes. She averted her head, as though to avoid
being splashed with the blood.
And, during some moments, Laurent kept his heel raised
over the face of sleeping Camille. Then slowly he put his
foot to the ground and moved a few yards away. He had
j ust decided that such a murder would be the act of an idiot.
That battered head would put the police on his track at
once. His only reason for wanting to get rid of Camille was
to marry Therese ; and he intended to live openly after the
78 THERESE RAQUIN.
murder like the man who killed the waggoner in Michaud's
He went as far as the waterside, and watched the river
flowing past with a dazed look. Then suddenly he returned
into the coppice ; he had at last decided on a plan ; he had
invented an easy murder, and one without danger to him-
Then he awoke the sleeper by tickling his nose with a
straw. Camille sneezed, got up, and vowed it was awfully
funny. He liked Laurent's practical jokes, they made him
laugh so. Then he shook his wife, who was keeping her eyes
shut ; and when Therese had roused herself, and shaken out
her skirts, which were tumbled and covered with dry leaves,
the three excursionists emerged from the glade, breaking
the little branches before them. They left the island, and
wandered along the roads and lanes full of holiday folk.
Girls in light dresses were chasing each other along the
hedges ; a troop of rowing men passed by singing ; crowds
of happy couples, of old people, and of clerks with their
wives, were strolling along by the flower-dotted ditches.
Every road was like a thickly-populated and noisy street.
The sun's was the only face that maintained its composure ;
it was sinking towards the horizon and shedding upon the
ruddy trees and the white highways a flood of pallid light.
From the quivering heavens a cool penetrating air was be-
ginning to descend.
Camille was no longer walking arm-in-arm with Therese ;
he was talking to Laurent, laughing at his friend's jokes and
feats of strength, such as leaping ditches and lifting heavy
stones. The young woman, on the other side of the road,
was plodding on, with her head bent forward, sometimes
stooping to pick a flower. Whenever she dropped behind
she would stop and take a long look at her lover and her
THERESE RAQUIN. 70
" I say, aren't you hungry?" cried Camille to her at last.
" Yes," she replied.
" Well, come along, then ! "
Th^rese was not hungry ; she was only tired and anxious.
She had no clue to what was passing in Laurent's mind, and
her legs were trembling under her with apprehension.
The three excursionists came back to the water-side, and
looked out for a restaurant. They selected a table on a sort
of platform-terrace, in an eating-house that reeked of cooking
and drink. The place re-echoed with screams, with choruses,
with the rattle of crockery ; in every room, public and
private, there were people talking at the top of their voice,
and the thin partitions gave the fullest scope to all this
noise ; while the waiters running up and down made
the staircase shake again.
Up above, on the terrace, the river-breeze dispelled the
smell of grease. Th^rese was leaning against the balustrade
and looking down at the quay. To the right and left ex-
tended two rows of drinking-shops and booths ; under the
arbours, among the scanty yellow foliage, you could see the
white tablecloths, the black coats of the men, and the gay
dresses of the women ; people were coming and going, bare-
headed, running and laughing ; and with the uproar of the
crowd were blended the dolorous tunes of the barrel-organs.
A smell of fried fish and dust pervaded the calm air.
Below Th^rese, some girls from the Quartier-Latin were
dancing in a ring on the trodden grass-plot to the words
of a nursery rhyme. With their hats dangling over their
shoulders, their hair flying loose, and holding each other by
the hand, they were playing like little children. Their voices
seemed to have regained a touch of freshness, and a maidenly
blush suffused their pale cheeks — which bore the traces of
brutish caresses — with a tender rose. An unwonted diffi-
dence softened the fire of their bold, big eyes. Some
80 TH^KfcSE EAQUIN.
students, smoking clay pipes, were watching them as they
danced and cracked coarse jokes about them.
And beyond, over the Seine, over the distant hills, the
sweetness of eventide was falling in a bluish impalpable mist
which hung about the trees in a transparent haze.
" Well ! " cried Laurent leaning over the banisters on the
staircase, "how about dinner, waiter?"
And then — as if with a happy thought — he added :
" I say, Camille, supposing we went for a row before
dining 1 That will give them time to roast a chicken for
us. It would be a bore to stop here an hour waiting for it."
" Just as you please," answered Camille, carelessly. " But
Therese is hungry."
" No, no, I can wait," hastily put in the young woman,
upon whom Laurent was fixing his eyes.
All three of them went down again. As they passed the
counter they engaged a table, they ordered the dinner, and
they left word that they would be back in an hour's time.
As the landlord had boats to let, they asked him to come
and unmoor one. Laurent chose an outrigger of such light
build that Camille took fright.
" The deuce ! " he said, " we mustn't move about too much
in that cockle-shell. We should get a soaking."
The fact was that Camille was awfully afraid of the water.
At Vernon, when he was a boy, his many ailments prevented
him from taking a dip in the Seine ; and, .while his school-
fellows were off for a swim in deep water, he would be get-
ting between two hot blankets. Laurent had become a bold
swimmer, and a first-rate oar ; Camille had never lost that
horror of being out of his depth that is common to women
and children. He touched the end of the boat with his
foot as though doubtful of its stability.
" Come, get in," laughed Laurent. " You are always so
TH^RfiSE RAQUIN. 81
Camille stepped over the side, and stumblingly went and
sat down in the stern. When he felt the boards beneath
him he began to take his ease and to joke to prove his
Therese had remained on the bank and, grave and motion-
less, was standing at the side of her lover who was holding
the painter. He bent towards her and, in low, hurried
" Look out," he murmured, " I'm going to chuck him into
the water. Do as I tell you. I'll be answerable for every-
The young woman turned horribly pale. She stood as if
rooted to the earth. She grew quite stiff, her eyes wide
" Get into the boat, can't you 1 " repeated Laurent.
She did not move. A terrible struggle was going on
within her. She had to exercise all her strength of will in
order not to burst out crying or swoon away.
" Ha ! ha ! " laughed Camille. " Why, Laurent, just look
at Therese ! It's she who's afraid ! She will — she won't !
She will— she won't ! "
He had stretched himself out in the stern-sheets, resting
his elbows on the gunwale, and was trying to look quite at
home. Therese gave him a strange glance. This poor
fellow's giggle stung her like a whip-lash, and drove her to
desperation. She suddenly sprang into the boat, and sat
down in the bows. Laurent took the oars, and, rowing
slowly, made for the islands.
It was becoming twilight. The trees were casting great
shadows, and the stream flowed as black as ink against the
banks. In the middle of the river there were long streaks
of pale silvery light. Very soon the boat had reached mid-
channel. There, all the clamour of the quay died away ; the
choruses and the shouting sounded vague and melancholy,
82 THtiKfcSE KAQUIN.
full of a languishing sadness. The smell of dust and fried
fish was no longer perceptible. The night air was chilly ; it
was getting quite cold.
Laurent stopped rowing, and allowed the boat to drift
with the current.
Opposite him rose the ruddy mass of islands. The two
banks, clad in sombre brown flaked with grey, seemed like
two broad belts which stretched and met in the far distance.
The water and the sky were of the same leaden hue. There
is nothing more painfully calm than an autumn twilight.
The sun's rays turn pale in the shivering air ; the senile
trees shed their leaves about them. Burnt up by the hot
glare of summer, the whole country side feels the impending
death of its beauty in every cold wind. And in the breeze
you can hear piteous sighs of despair. Then night descends
from on high with its shroud-laden shadow.
The excursionists spoke never a word. From the drifting
boat they were watching the last gleams of light vanishing
among the foliage. They were nearing the islands. The
big ruddy clumps were darkening ; the whole landscape was
becoming blurred in the twilight ; the Seine, the sky, the
islands, the hills, were by this time nothing more than
patches of brown and grey, last disappearing in the midst of
a dull white mist.
Camille, who had subsided in the bottom of the boat, with
his head craned over the side, fell to dipping his hands in
" Gad ! it's cold enough ! " he cried ; " I shouldn't care
about taking a header into that bowl of broth ! "
Laurent vouchsafed no answer. For the last minute or
so he had been anxiously scanning the two banks, he was
gripping his knees with both hands, and his lips were tightly
compressed. Therese, erect and motionless, her head slightly
thrown back, was waiting.
TH^KfeSE RAQUIN. 83
The boat was drifting into a narrow branch of the river
between two islands, deep in the shadow. Behind one of
these islands, the voices of some rowing-men who were going
up the river, resounded through the still air, mellowed by
their surroundings. As far as one could see ahead, the
Seine was deserted.
Then Laurent got up, and twined his arms about Camille's
waist. The clerk burst out laughing.
" Oh, don't ! you're tickling me," he cried. " None of 3-our
larks ! Come, chuck it up ! You'll send me overboard."
Laurent tightened his grip, and gave a jerk. Camille
turned his head, and caught sight of his friend's terrible
features, all convulsed. He could not make it out ; a vague
terror came over him. He would have screamed, but he
felt a rough hand at his throat. With the instinct of an
animal on the defensive, he got on to his knees and clutched
at the boat's gunwale. In this position, he carried on the
struggle for a few seconds.
" Therese ! Therese ! " he screamed at last in a choked
and hissing voice.
The young woman was looking on, both hands clutching
one of the seats of the wherry, which was pitching and creaking
on the water. She was unable to close her eyes ; a frightful
fascination kept them wide open, fixed upon the ghastly
sight of the struggle. She was petrified — speechless.
" Therese ! Therese ! " again yelled the poor wretch in his
At this last appeal Therese burst into sobs. Her nerves
were unstrung. In the presence of the crisis she had been
dreading, she dropped down into the bottom of the boat,
trembling in every limb. There she remained in a heap,
swooned away, like a corpse.
Laurent was still struggling with Camille, with one hand
at his throat. At last, he managed to shake loose his hold
84 THERESE RAQUIM.
with the help of his other hand. He held him up in his
powerful arms as he might a child. As he bent his head
towards him, he exposed his neck, and his victim, mad with
rage and terror, twisted himself round and fixed his teeth in
it. And when the murderer, smothering a howl of pain,
suddenly hurled the clerk into the river, those teeth carried
away a piece of his flesh between them.
Camille sank with a yell. He came up two or three
times ; but his cries grew fainter and fainter.
Laurent did not lose a moment. He raised the collar of
his coat to conceal his wound. Then he caught up the un-
conscious Therese in his arms, capsized the boat with one
heavy lurch, and let himself fall into the Seine with his mis-
tress. He held her above water, and called for help with a
The rowers, whose choruses he had heard from the other
side of the island, came up at full speed. They understood
that an accident had happened ; they fished out Therese,
and laid her on a seat ; they helped in Laurent, who fell to
bewailing his friend's fate. He leapt back into the water; he
hunted for Camille wherever it was impossible to find him, he
got in again, weeping bitterly, wringing his hands, tearing his
hair. The crew tried to calm him, to comfort him.
" It's all my fault," he howled ; " I oughtn't to have al-
lowed the poor fellow to dance about and play the fool like
that. Of course the minute we all happened to be on one
side of the boat — over we went ! His last words as he sank
were, ' Save my wife ! ' "
As is always the case at any accident, two or three of the
new-comers would have it that they were eye-witnesses of
" We saw the whole affair," said they. " What can you ex-
peot, a boat isn't the floor of a room ! Poor little woman —
what a terrible awakening she will have ! "
THfiRfiSE RAQUIlSr. 85
They took the wherry in tow, made play with their oars,
and brought Therese and Laurent back to the restaurant,
where dinner was ready and waiting. Every detail of the
accident was known in Saint-Ouen within five minutes. The
salvage crew spoke as though they had been eye-witnesses of
the whole affair. A sympathizing crowd swarmed outside
The landlord and his wife were a couple of good souls, who
soon supplied their half-drowned guests with dry clothing.
When Therese recovered from her swoon, she had an attack
of hysteria, and burst into agonizing sobs ; they had to put
her to bed. Nature was assisting the diabolical comedy that
had just been performed.
When the young woman had grown calmer, Laurent left
her in charge of the host. He wanted to get back to Paris
alone, in order to break the dreadful news to Madame Raquin
as carefully as possible. The truth of it was that Th&rese's
nervous state alarmed him. He preferred to give her time
to think over it all, and to study her rdle.
Camille's dinner was eaten by the rowing-men.
In his dark corner of the public conveyance that brought
him back to Paris, Laurent was able to elaborate his plans.
He was almost certain of the most absolute impunity. He
was full of a dark and yet apprehensive feeling of relief — re-
lief at the successful issue of his crime. When he reached
the Barriere de Clichy, he called a cab, and told the man to
drive to old Michaud's place, in the Rue de Seine. It was
The ex-commissary of police was at dinner with Olivier and
Suzanne. Laurent's object in driving there was to secure
the old man's influence in the event of suspicion being
aroused, and to avoid the disagreeable necessity of having
himself to break the news to Madame Raquin. Such a task
would, under the circumstances, be more than usually irk-
some to him ; he felt sure that the news would plunge her
into such a depth of despair that perhaps even he might not
be able to convince her of the sincerity of his regret ; besides,
although it did not matter much to him after all, the sight
of a mother's sorrow would be a deuce of a bore.
When Michaud saw him come in, dressed in common, ill-
fitting clothes, he looked at him inquiringly. Laurent told
them all about the accident, in broken accents, and as might
one utterly wearied out and grief-stricken.
" I come to you," he concluded, " as I didn't know what
to do with those two poor women who have been so cruelly
bereaved. I haven't the courage to see his mother alone. I
beg you to come with me."
THERESE RAQUIN. 87
While he was talking, Olivier was fixing his eyes upon
him, with a searching look that frightened him out of his
wits. As a matter of fact, the murderer had ventured to
put his head into the very jaws of the police with an
audacity which could not but hold him harmless. But, as
he felt their eyes upon him, he could not help shuddering ;
where there was only compassion and horror, he could not
help seeing suspicion. Suzanne, who looked paler and weak-
lier than ever, seemed as if she were going to faint. Olivier,
who dreaded the very idea of death, but who, by-the-way,
was a most cold-blooded mortal, put on a face of sorrowing
surprise, although from force of habit he was subjecting
Laurent to a professional scrutiny, without, however, having
the least inkling of the black truth. As for old Michaud, he
gave full vent to all his feelings of astonishment, of pity,
and of alarm. He could not sit still on his chair ; he could
do nothing but clasp his hands and raise his eyes to
" Good God ! " he kept saying in a husky voice. " Good
God ! what an awful thing ! A man goes out, and he dies
like that, all on a sudden ! It's simply dreadful. And
poor Madame Raquin, his mother, how shall we break it to
her? You certainly could not have done better than to
come for us. We will go there with you."
He got up, walked to and fro, hunted all over the room
for his hat and stick ; and, all the while, he was making
Laurent repeat every detail of the catastrophe, and stopping
him every minute with exclamations of horror.
All four went downstairs. When they got to the Passage
du Pont-Neuf, Michaud stopped Laurent.
" Don't you come in," he said ; " your presence alone
would tell the whole story, and that is exactly what we want
to avoid. The unhappy mother would at once suspect that
there was something wrong, and she would compel us to
88 THtiRfcSE RAQUIN.
bring out the truth sooner than would be good for her.
Wait for us here.''
This was an arrangement which just suited the murderer,
who shuddered at the bare idea of walking into the shop.
He regained his coolness, he strolled up and down and made
his way to and fro without interference. Every now and
then he forgot what had just happened; he looked into the
shops, whistled some old tune, or turned round to look after
the women who passed. And thus he whiled away a good
half-hour in the street, and gradually recovered his com-
He had not tasted food since morning ; finding that he
was hungry, he went into a confectioner's and stuffed him-
self with cakes.
In the shop in the Passage, a very painful scene was
taking place. Notwithstanding old Michaud's precautions,
and his gentle and friendly words, Madame Eaquin was not
long in coming to the conclusion that some accident had
happened to her son. From that moment she insisted upon
the whole truth with such a deluge of tears, such a succes-
sion of screams, such a madness of despair, that her old
friend gave way to her appeal. And when she had heard
the truth her grief was a very tragedy. Sobbing silently,
falling back in shudders of horror, in fits of alternate misery
and affright, she lay there almost choking, screaming out
ever and anon in the profound agony of her grief. She
would have flung herself on the floor if Suzanne — who,
weeping on her knees, was gazing at her with a pale face —
had not caught her round the waist. Olivier and his father,
both silent and upset, were still standing, turning away their
heads from a disagreeable sight which did not in any way
And the poor mother could see the muddy flood of the
Seine whirling along her son's stiff and swollen corpse ; she
TKlilKfcSE RAQtriN. 89
could remember him a baby in his cradle, when she had to
stand between him and death. It seemed to her that his
ailments gave her ten times the privileges of motherhood ;
her love for him was the result of the thirty years during
which he had been dependent upon it. And now he had
died far from her, suddenly, in the cold and filthy water
like a dog. Then she began to think how warm were the
blankets in which she used to wrap him. What attentive
care, what a petted childhood, what fondling and what
tender affection, all to result in one day seeing him drowned
miserably. At these thoughts Madame Eaquin felt a chok-
ing sensation at her throat ; she hoped she was about to die,
strangled by grief.
Old Michaud got away as soon as he could. He left
Suzanne with the old lady, and went, out with Olivier to join
Laurent in order to get to Saint-Ouen as soon as possible.
On the road they scarcely exchanged a word. Each of
them had got into a corner of the cab which was jolting
them over the pavement. They sat mute and immovable
in the depths of the shadows which filled the vehicle. And,
ever and anon, the swift flash of a gas-jet threw a lurid light
upon their faces. The sad occurrence which had brought
them together surrounded them with a sort of mournful de-
When they arrived at last at the water-side restaurant,
they found Therese in bed, her head and hands on fire.
The landlord told them in a whisper that the young lady
was in a high fever. The truth was that Therese, feeling
weak and cowardly, had made up her mind to feign illness
lest she should be frightened into confessing the murder.
She maintained an obstinate silence, kept her lips and her
eyes close shut, dreading to speak, and refusing to see any
one. With the sheets drawn up to her chin, her face half
buried in the pillow, she huddled herself up, anxiously
90 THfiKfcSE RAQTTIN.
listening the while to everything that was said in the room.
And all the time, in the tawny light that filtered through
her closed eyelids, she could see the death-struggle between
Camille and Laurent in the boat ; she could see her hus-
band's face rising wan, ghastly, and swollen, above the
turbid waters. And the horrid sight aggravated the fever
in her blood.
Old Michaud attempted to speak to her, to console her.
She only turned her back to him with an impatient gesture
and fell to sobbing afresh.
" Best leave her alone, sir,'' said the landlord, " the least
noise makes her shudder. You see, what she wants is rest."
Downstairs, in the public room, a police-agent was drawing
up an official report of the accident. Michaud and his sou
went down, followed by Laurent. As soon as Olivier had
introduced himself as one of the chief inspectors at head-
quarters, the whole affair was at an end in ten minutes.
The rowing party were still there, describing the disaster in
its minutest details, illustrating the exact way in which the
three holiday-makers fell overboard, giving themselves out
as eye-witnesses. If the least suspicion as to the real state
of affairs had suggested itself to Olivier and his father, such
evidence as this would have put it to flight at once. But
not for a moment had it occurred to them to doubt the truth
of Laurent's story ; on the contrary, they introduced him to
the police-agent as the dead man's best friend ; and they
made a point of his recording the fact that the young fellow
had dived into the river to save Camille Raquin. The next
morning the fullest details of the accident appeared in all
the newspapers ; the unhappy mother, the disconsolate
widow, the heroic and devoted friend, each formed the sub-
ject of a paragraph in the thrilling column which went the
rounds of the Parisian press, and found its way to the front
page of every provincial organ.
THERESE RAQUIN, 91
When the official report had been drawn up, a hot flood
of relief came to warm Laurent into new life. From the
moment when he felt his victim's teeth biting into his neck,
he had been as it were petrified ; he had been doing every-
thing mechanically, in accordance with the plan he had
elaborated long before. It was simply the instinct of self-
preservation that urged him on, that inspired his speech,
that suggested his gestures of despair. But now, now that
be was assured of impunity, the blood began to flow in his
veins as equably and as apathetically as ever. The police
had been confronted with his crime, and the police had
failed to recognise it ; he had duped them thoroughly — nay
more, he had got them to sign his acquittal. He was saved ;
and, at the thought, a warm thrill of delight ran through
his whole body, a glow which restored all his vigour of brain
and of limb. He kept up his part of the distracted friend
with extraordinary skill and presence of mind. As a matter
of fact, his satisfaction was wholly animal; his thoughts lay in
the direction of Ther&se, who was lying asleep in the room
"We can't leave the poor young thing here," he said to
Michaud. " A serious illness may be the result of all this,
and we must positively take her back to Paris. Come, we'll
manage to persuade her to return with us."
When they got upstairs, he spoke to Therese himself;
he entreated her to get up, to let them take her to the
Passage du Pont-Neuf. When the young woman heard the
sound of his voice, she started ; she opened her eyes wide,
and fixed them upon him. She looked at him in stupe-
faction, trembling all over. She raised herself with some
difficulty, but in silence. The men went out, leaving her
alone with the landlord's wife. When she was dressed she
tottered downstairs and got into the cab, supported by
92 THERESE RAQUIN.
The journey was a silent one. Laurent, with an audacity
only equalled by his coolness, slipped his hand along the
young woman's skirts and took her fingers in his. He was
sitting opposite her, in a floating shadow ; he could not see
her face, which she kept bent on her bosom. When he had
got hold of her hand, he squeezed it hard and kept it in his
as far as the Eue Mazarine. He could feel how it trembled ;
but it was not withdrawn; on the contrary, it now and
again returned his caresses. And, the one close held in the
other, the two hands were burning ; the damp palms stuck
together, and the clinging fingers bruised each other at every
jolt. To Laurent and Therese, it seemed as if their blood
was pouring from the one heart into the other through the
channel of their joined hands ; these hands had become a
fiery furnace in which their very souls were blazing. In the
midst of the darkness and the heart-rending silence about
them, the desperate grip they were exchanging was, as it
were, a crushing weight cast upon Camille's head to keep
him under water.
When the cab stopped, Michaud and his son were the
first to alight. Laurent bent towards his mistress, and
whispered in her ear.
" Be strong, Th6rese," he murmured. "We shall have to
wait a long while. Kemember ! "
The young woman had not spoken yet. She opened her
lips for the first time since her husband's death.
" Yes, I shall remember," she said, with a shiver and in a
voice as faint as a breath.
Olivier was holding out his hand to her, inviting her to
alight. This time, Laurent ventured to go as far as the
shop. Madame Eaquin was in bed, and raving in delirium.
Therese dragged herself up to her room, and Suzanne had
hardly time to undress her before she was between the
sheets. Laurent went away, reassured and satisfied that
THERESE EAQUIN 93
everything was going on as well as he could possibly desire.
He strolled home slowly to his garret in the Kue Saint-
It was past midnight. A pleasant breeze was sweeping
the silent and deserted streets. All that the young man
could hear was the monotonous tramp of his footsteps on
the flags of the pavement. The refreshing night air filled
him with well-being ; the silence, the obscurity affected him
with a pungent sensation of content. He was again a
lounger at large.
He had got his crime off his hands at last. He had suc-
ceeded in killing Camille. That was an accomplished fact
which could arouse no further comment. He was now going
to live at his ease while he awaited the most propitious
opportunity of taking possession of Therese. The thought of
this murder had sometimes almost choked him ; now that the
murder had been committed, the weight was off his mind, he
could breathe freely once more, he was cured of the suffer-
ings which his vacillation and his cowardice had caused him
In point of fact, he was a trifle stupefied : his limbs and
his brain were exhausted with fatigue. He got home at
last, and fell into a sound sleep. And while he slept his
face kept twitching with an involuntary contraction of the
The next morning Laurent woke up fresh and fit ; he had
slept well. The cold air which came in at the window was
whipping up his sluggish blood. He had almost forgotten
the events of the day before ; if it were not for the hot
smart that was burning at his neck, he could have almost
brought himself to believe that he had gone to bed at ten
o'clock, after a quiet evening. Camille's bite felt like the
mark of a red-hot iron on his skin. When he began to
think of the pain which this wound was causing him, it
became a very torture. It seemed to him that a dozen
needles were being gradually stuck into his flesh.
He turned down his shirt-collar, and inspected the scar in
a wretched sixpenny looking-glass that was hanging on the
wall. The wound was a red hole as big as a penny piece ;
the skin had been torn away, and the flesh was exposed —
all pink, and spotted with dark stains ; the stream of blood
had trickled as far as the shoulder in scattered driblets
which were scaling off. The deep dull brown of the bite
stood out distinctly on the white neck ; it was on the right,
just under the ear. As Laurent was looking at it, with bent
back and craned neck, the greenish mirror reflected his face
into a hideous grimace.
Satisfied with the result of his inspection, he had a good
wash, and consoled himself with the reflection that the wound
would heal up in a very few days. Then he dressed, and
quietly went off to the office, the same as usual. He gave
an account of the accident with unmistakeable emotion.
THERESE EAQUIN. 95
When his colleagues had read the thrilling details which
were going the round of the press, they made quite a hero
of him. For a whole week the clerks of the Orleans railway
could talk of nothing else ; they seemed to consider it a
subject of legitimate pride that one of their comrades should
have been drowned. As for Grivet, there was no stopping
the torrent of his eloquence with regard to the rashness of
adventuring oneself upon the open Seine, when, if you must
have a look at the river, it is so easy to take it from the
Laurent had still, however, one grave source of anxiety
left. It was, of course, impossible as yet to furnish any
legal proof of Camille's death. Th^rese's husband was, no
doubt, as dead as could be ; but his murderer would have
preferred to have recovered the corpse, so that official con-
firmation of the decease' might be registered. The day after
the accident, a fruitless search had been made for the body ;
the general opinion was that he must have sunk to the
bottom of some deep hole, under the banks of the islands.
A host of marauders were already busily dragging the Seine,
in the hope of securing the reward.
Laurent made it his business to look in at the Morgue
every morning, on his way to the office. He had vowed to
attend to his own affairs himself. Notwithstanding the
repugnance of the task, and notwithstanding the cold
shudders that it sent through him at times, he went
regularly for more than a week to inspect the features of
all the drowned who lay stretched on the flags.
Whenever he went in, a faint odour- — a smell of the wash-
ing of flesh — made him feel sick, and the cold atmosphere
chilled his blood ; the dampness of the walls seemed to
penetrate his clothing, and to make it hang heavier about
his shoulders. He used to go straight to the glass partition
which separates the spectators from the corpses ; he would
96 TH^KfcSE RAQUIN.
flatten his pale face against the panes, and gaze in. Before
him were the rows of grey slabs in a line. Here and there,
on the slabs, were arranged bodies which looked like stains
of green or yellow, white or red ; some of them, though
rigid in death, were not disfigured ; others might have been
nothing more than bleeding and rotten heaps of carrion.
At the back, against the wall, a lot of wretched rags were
hung up — petticoats and trousers, looking hideous against
the bare plaster. At first Laurent noticed little but the
paleness of the slabs and walls, stained with red and black
by the clothes and the corpses. And there was a sound of
But, little by little, he observed the various bodies. Then
he examined them in rotation. The only remains that in-
terested him were those of the drowned ; when there were
several bodies, swollen and blue from long immersion, he
looked them over eagerly, hoping to recognize Camille.
Often the flesh was falling from their features in strips;
the bones had made their way through the sodden skin ;
the faces looked as if they had been first boiled and then
boned. Laurent was undecided ; he inspected more closely;
he did his best to make himself recognize the attenuated
proportions of his victim. But the drowned cannot help
being corpulent ; he came across nothing but inflated
stomachs, swollen thighs, and big bloated arms. He could
not make sure ; he would stop there shuddering before those
greenish rags which seemed to be jeering at him with
One morning he really was frightened out of his wits.
For some minutes he had been gazing at the short and
terribly disfigured body of a drowned man. This one's
flesh was so battered and sodden that the water, which was
flowing over, kept removing it in morsels. The jet which
was directed upon the face had dug itself a hole on the left
THERESE RAQUIN. 97
of the nose. And, all of a sudden, the nostrils fell in, the
lips gave way and showed the white row of teeth. The
head of this corpse burst into a laugh.
Every time he fancied he had recognized Camille, Laurent
felt a burning at the heart. He was eagerly longing to
recover his victim's body; and yet he trembled in every
limb when he thought he was at last in presence of it. His
visits to the Morgue gave him the nightmare, shook him
with shudders that made him gasp again. He tried hard to
get rid of these terrors, he called himself a great baby, he
did his best to pluck up his courage ; but in spite of every-
thing, from the moment he found himself in the midst of
the damp air and faint smells of the place, his physical man
was seized with nausea, and his whole being was filled with
deep horror and disgust.
When he came to the last row of slabs without having
seen any drowned people, he began to breathe again ; his
repugnance almost vanished. Thus, having become a mere
idler, he found a strange pleasure at meeting death by vio-
lence face to face in all its phases of the extraordinary and
the grotesque. The sight amused him, particularly when he
beheld the bare breast of a woman. This brutal exhibition
of dead fellow-creatures, wounded in places and splashed
with their gore, attracted and fascinated him. Once he saw
a young woman of twenty, a daughter of the people, tall
and shapely, who seemed to be only asleep on the slab ; her
fresh plump body was whitening into an extreme delicacy of
tint ; she was half-smiling, with her head a little aside, and
her chest protruding provokingly. One might have taken
her for a reclining courtesan, had it not been for a black
line, like a necklace about her throat; it was a girl who had
just hung herself in despair at being crossed in love.
Laurent gazed upon her a long time, his eyes lingering upon
her flesh, absorbed in a kind of timorous desire,
98 THERESE RAQUIN.
Every morning while he was there he could hear the hum
of the crowd as it swarmed in and out, to and fro".
The Morgue is an exhibition within the reach of every
purse, and to which the passer-by, rich or poor, can treat
himself gratuitously. The door is open, enter who will.
There are even some consciences who go out of their way
rather than miss one of these illustrations of death. When
the slabs are empty, people go out much disappointed, and
grumbling between their teeth as if they had been robbed.
When the slabs are pretty numerously tenanted, when there
is a fine show of human flesh, the audience throng on each
other's heels, give way to a little cheap emotion, exhibit
their terror or their hilarity, hiss or applaud, just as they
would at a theatre. Then they retire perfectly satisfied,
and vowing that the Morgue is quite a success to-day.
Laurent soon got to know the frequenters of the place, a
mixed collection of incongruities who had nothing in com-
mon except their desire to give vent to their feelings of
compassion or ridicule. Workmen came in on their way to
work, with their tools and a long loaf under their arms ;
they looked upon death as something irresistibly comic.
Among them was to be found an occasional workshop wit,
who managed to raise a laugh by cracking a joke about the
ugly faces the corpses were making. Those who had been
burnt to death he would call charcoal manufacturers. For
the different fate of each he would extemporise a different
gibe ; and, amid the shuddering silence of the hall, you
could hear his husky voice quavering out the catch-words
and back-slang of the day. Then came the small capitalists,
thin and mummified old men ; loungers who dropped in out
of curiosity, and who gaped at the bodies with stupidity in
their eyes and pouts of peaceful and dainty men on their
lips. A large proportion of the visitors were women ; there
were pink-faced young work-girls, with their white linen
THfeltiSE RAQUIN. 99
and clean skirts, who trotted lightly from one end of the
partition to the other, opening their big attentive eyes as if
they were taking stock of the show in a milliner's window ;
there were, besides, women of the lower class, staring
foolishly at the sights and talking about it in a dolorous
whine ; and again, some well-dressed ladies, sweeping the
floor apathetically with their silk trains.
One day Laurent noticed one of the latter, who was stand-
ing a yard or so from the partition, and pressing a cambric
handkerchief to her nostrils. She was wearing a charming
grey silk skirt, under a voluminous mantle of black lace ; a
small veil concealed her features, and her gloved hands
looked very tiny and very dainty. She exhaled a delicious
perfume of violets. She was looking at a corpse. On a
slab, a few paces off, was stretched the body of a strapping
young fellow, a mason who had just fallen from a scaffold
and been killed on the spot. He had a mighty chest, short
and powerful muscles, a white and smooth skin ; death had
turned him into marble. The lady was inspecting him,
analyzing him — weighing him, as it were — with her glance,
absorbing herself in the contemplation of this man. She
lifted a corner of her veil, took a last look, and disappeared.
Now and then a troop of boys would arrive, children from
twelve to fifteen years of age, and rush up and down the
partition, only stopping before the female corpses. They
rested their hands on the panes, and feasted their insolent
gaze upon the bare bosoms. They kept jogging each other
with their elbows and passing brutal remarks ; they learnt
vice even at the school of death. It's at the Morgue that
young street Arabs possess their first mistress.
At the end of a week, Laurent was thoroughly sick of it.
At night he dreamed of the corpses he had seen in the morn-
ing. This torture, added to the daily disgust he was forc-
ing himself to endure, ended by so upsetting him that he
100 therese raquin.
made up his mind to release himself from his task after two
visits more. The next day, as he was walking into the
Morgue, he received a blow full in the face ; just opposite
him, on a slab, Camille, with raised head and eyes half open,
was lying on his back, and looking at him !
The murderer went up to the partition slowly, as though
fascinated and without being able to take his eyes off his
victim. He was not much agitated, however ; he was only
feeling a strange chill in his vitals and a slight prickling of
the skin. He had expected to be ever so much more
frightened. For five long minutes he stood motionless,
lost in an unconscious reverie, and, despite himself, engrav-
ing upon his memory every horrid line, every filthy colour
of the picture before him.
Camille presented an ignoble appearance, indeed. He
had been a whole fortnight in the water. His face was
seemingly still firm and rigid ; the features were not much
altered, the skin only had assumed a muddy yellowish hue.
The thin, bony, slightly tumefied head was grotesquely
grimacing ; it was a little bent forward, with the hair stick-
ing to the temples, the eyelids raised, showing the pale ball
of the eye ; the lips were distorted, drawn to one corner of
the mouth, and were set in an awful grin ; a bit of blackish
tongue peeped through the whiteness of the teeth. That
head, looking tanned and wizened, was all the more fearful
to the horror-struck observer in that it still presented some
resemblance to life. The body seemed to be no mors than
a heap of decomposed flesh ; it had been shockingly knocked
about. One could see that the arms only hung by a thread;
the collar-bones were coming through the skin of the
shoulders. About the greenish breast the ribs traced their
black outline. The left side had burst open, and revealed a
deep gap hung about with ribbons of flesh of a dull red.
The whole trunk was a mass of corruption. The legs, not
THfiRilSE RAQUIN. 101
so far gone, were stretched out at full length, and dis-
coloured with foul stains. The feet were falling to pieces.
Laurent looked at Camille. None of the drowned he had
as yet seen was one-half so ghastly an object. Besides, this
corpse looked so mean, so thin, and so poor a thing ; it was
rotting into nothingness ; the heap that it made was such a
little one. Any one would have guessed at once that there
lay a clerk at twelve hundred francs a year, a stupid and
sickly creature, brought up by its mother on diet drinks.
That wretched body, which had grown up between hot
blankets, was now shivering on the cold slab.
When Laurent was able at last to get the better of the
poignant curiosity which had kept him there motionless and
open-mouthed, he went out and fell to walking smartly along
the quay. And, as he walked, he said to himself over and
over again : " That is what I have done with him. He is
vile.'' It seemed to him that an acrid smell was dogging
his steps, the odour that the body must be exhaling in its
He went to call upon old Michaud, and to tell him that
he had just recognised Camille on one of the slabs at the
Morgue. Every formality was soon complied with ; the
drowned man was buried ; his death was duly registered.
Laurent, easy at last, applied himself with delight to the
task of forgetting his crime and the sad and tiresome scenes
which the murder had brought in its train.
The shop in the Passage du Pont-Neuf remained closed for
three whole days. When it was opened again, it looked
even darker and damper than before. The stock-in-trade
was yellow with dust, and seemed to be sharing the mourn-
ing of the household ; in the dirty windows everthing was
at sixes and sevens. Behind the linen caps hung up on the
rusty rods the pallor of Therese's face loomed more dead,
more earthy than ever, and her impassibility was of an ill-
In the Passage all the gossips were lamenting aloud. The
dealer in imitation jewellery pointed out to each of her
customers the emaciated profile of the young widow as an
interesting and a pitiful curiosity.
For three days Madame Raquin and The'rese had stayed
in bed without exchanging a word, without even seeing each
other. The old lady, sitting straight up against the pillows,
was staring into vacancy with the eyes of an idiot. The
death of her son had struck her the same as a heavy blow
on the head, and she had fallen beneath it like a log. She
would remain quiet and apathetic for whole hours, absorbed
in the depths of her unavailing despair ; then sometimes she
would have a sudden fit of weeping, of screaming, or of de-
lirium. Therese, in the next room, seemed to be asleep ;
she had turned her face to the wall, and pulled the counter-
pane over her eyes ; and so she remained as if laid out, rigid
and silent, without moving the sheets which covered her by
so much as a single sob. One would have thought she was
THERESE RAQUIN. 103
trying in the shadow of the alcove to hide recollections which
were petrifying her. Suzanne, who was watching the two
women, went feebly from the one to the other, treading as
lightly as possible, craning her wax-like face over the two
beds in turn, without however prevailing upon Therese to
look round — she only got gestures of roughest impatience
in reply — not being able to console Madame Raquin, whose
tears began to flow directly any voice roused her from her
The third day The'rese threw off the counterpane and
sat up quickly in the bed, with a sort of feverish decision.
She pushed back the hair from her forehead, and, pressing
her hands to it, she remained so a moment, holding each
temple tight, her eyes fixed, still deep in thought. Then
she jumped on to the carpet. Her limbs were trembling,
and reddened with fever; great livid patches stained her
skin, which was shrivelled in places as if there were not
enough flesh underneath. She looked like an old woman.
Suzanne, who was just coming in, seemed quite surprised
to find her up ; she advised her, in a placid drawl, to get
back into bed, to rest herself a little longer. Therese was
not listening to her ; she was hunting for her clothes and put-
ting them on in trembling haste. When she was fully dressed
she went to look at herself in a glass, and passed her hand
over her face as though she were wiping off something ; then
without saying a word, she crossed the dining-room with a
quick step, and went in to Madame Raquin.
The old tradeswoman was in a quiet interval of stupe-
faction. When Therese came in she turned her head and
followed the young widow with her eyes, as, in silence and
dejection, the latter came to stand in front of her. The two
women watched each other for some seconds, the niece with
increasing apprehension, the aunt with a painful effort of
memory. Remembering at last, however, and holding forth
104 th£r£se raquin.
her trembling arms, Madame Eaquin threw them about
Thdrese's neck and exclaimed :
" My poor boy ! my poor Camille ! "
She was weeping, and her tears were evaporating upon
the burning skin of the widow, who was hiding her dry
eyes in the folds of the sheet. Therese maintained her
prone position, and let the old mother cry out her fill. Ever
since the murder she had dreaded this first interview ; she
had kept her bed in order to put it off as long as possible,
and to study at her ease the terrible part she had to
When she found that Madame Eaquin was calming down,
she began to busy herself about her ; she advised her to get
up, to go down to the shop. The old woman had almost
fallen into second childhood. The unexpected apparition of
her niece had brought about a favourable crisis, which had
just restored to her her memory and the power of recognising
surrounding objects and people. She thanked Suzanne for
the care she had taken of her ; she conversed, very weak,
but no longer delirious, full of a grief which at times
almost choked her. She kept watching Therese moving
about, with sudden tears ; and then she would call her
to her, kiss her with more sobbing, and tell her in a
choking voice that now she had nothing left in the world
That evening she consented to get up, to try to eat. It
was then that Therese was able to gauge the full force of
the blow which her aunt had received. The poor old
woman's legs had become dead weights. She could not get
into the dining-room without the help of a stick, and even
then the walls seemed to be turning round her.
But, from the morrow, she insisted on the shop being
opened. She was afraid of going mad if she remained alone
in her room. She came heavily down the wooden stairs,
THfiKfcSE RAQUIN. 105
resting both feet on each step, and took her usual place be-
hind the counter. From that day forward she was a fixture
there in her placid grief.
At her side Therese was thinking and waiting. The shop
resumed its sombre appearance of tranquillity.
Lauebnt came to see them sometimes in the evening, once
in two or three days. He would stay in the shop and talk
to Madame Raquin for half an hour. Then he would take
his departure, without ever having looked Therese straight
in the face. The old tradeswoman looked upon him as her
niece's saviour, as a noble character who had done all in his
power to give her hack her son. She always received him
with a tearful kindness.
One Thursday evening, when Laurent was there, old
Michaud and Grivet came in. It was just eight o'clock.
The clerk and the ex-commissary had each, on his side,
judged the occasion propitious for the resumption of their
beloved habits, without seeming too importunate ; and so
they both arrived at the same moment, as though impelled
by the same machinery. Behind them, Olivier and Suzanne
made their appearance.
They were invited up to the dining-room. Madame
Raquin, who was not expecting anybody, made haste to
light the lamp and to make tea. When everybody was
seated round the table, each before his cup, and when the
domino-box had been emptied, the poor mother, suddenly
reminded of the past, looked at her guests, and burst into
tears. There was one empty place — her son's.
Such despair was chilling and tiresome to the company.
All their faces had put on an air of selfish beatitude. These
people found themselves ill at ease, they who had not the
least present memory of Camille in their hearts.
" Come, dear lady," cried old Michaud, rather impatiently,
THfiRSSE RAQIOT. 107
" you must really not give way like that. You will make
"We are all mortal," asserted Grivet.
" Your weeping can't possibly give you back your son,"
said Olivier, sententiously. '
"Ah, madame," murmured Suzanne, "pray don't make
us all wretched ! "
And as Madame Raquin, who could not check her tears,
was sobbing all the faster :
" Come, come," resumed Michaud, " a little courage, now !
Don't you understand that we have come here on purpose to
change the current of your thoughts? Hang it all ! don't
let us make ourselves miserable ; we must try to forget !
Let's see, we'll play for two sous the game. What do you
say to that 1 "
With a supremo effort, the old lady stifled her tears.
Perhaps she noticed her guests' happy selfishness. She
wiped her eyes, though still quite upset. In her poor old
hands the dominoes were rattling, and the tears about her
eyelashes darkened her sight.
They began to play.
Laurent and Th^rese had been observing this short scene
with a grave and impassive air. The young man was de-
lighted that the Thursday evenings had been resumed. He
had been eagerly longing for. them, knowing that these
gatherings would be necessary for the attainment of his ob-
ject. Then, without asking himself why, he felt more at
his ease in the midst of these few people whom he knew, he
dared look Therese in the face.
The young woman, dressed in black, pale and thoughtful,
seemed that night to possess a beauty he had not before
observed. He was glad to be able to meet her eyes, and to
feel them fixed upon his with such courageous self-posses-
sion. Therese still belonged to him — body and soul !
Fifteen months passed by. The first bitterness of death
was softened ; every day brought with it more peace of
mind, a deeper apathy ; the dull routine was resumed again
with weary langour, with the stupefied monotony that a
great crisis leaves in its train. And, at first, Laurent and
Therese let themselves drift with the current of the new
life which was effecting a transformation in them ; a latent
force was at work in them, all the various phases of which
it would require the most delicate analysis to trace.
Laurent soon began to appear at the shop every evening,
as of old. But he no longer dined there ; he never spent
whole evenings there now. He would arrive at half-past
nine, and go away after having shut up the shop. He al-
most seemed to be fulfilling a duty in placing himself at
the service of the two women. If one day he happened to
neglect his task, he would apologize on the morrow for his
defection with the most abject humility. On Thursdays he
helped Madame Eaquin to light the fire ; to do the honours
of the house. The old lady was charmed with his unobtru-
Therese looked on with equanimity as he hovered about
her. Her extreme pallor had disappeared ; she seemed
better in health, more inclined to smile, more gentle. Very
rarely did her lips contract with a nervous twitch and reveal
the two deep lines of care that imparted such a strange ex-
pression of anguish and affright to her face.
The two lovers no longer sought opportunities to meet in
THERESE RAQUIN. 10ET
private. They never made an appointment with each other ;
they never so much as exchanged a furtive kiss. The murder
had, as it were, allayed their voluptuous fever of the senses ;
in tilling Camille, they had succeeded in satisfying the fiery
and unbridled passions which they had been unable to satiate
in each other's arms. The crime seemed to them a pungent
luxury which had spoiled their taste for the cloying sweetness
of their former caresses.
It would, however, have been perfectly easy for them to
lead the life of free love for which they had craved so
ferociously as to commit a murder to attain it. Madame
Raquin, in her impotent and benumbed condition, was no
obstacle. The house belonged to them ; they could go out,
wander as far as they liked. But love was no longer a
temptation to them ; they had lost all appetite for it.
They stopped where they were, in calm conversation, looking
at each other without a blush and without a thrill ; and
they seemed to have forgotten the mad embraces which had
bruised their flesh and caused their bones to creak. They
even went so far as to avoid being alone together ; they
could find nothing to say to each other in private, and they
were both afraid of treating the other too coldly. When
they had to shake hands, the contact of their skin made
Besides, they each thought they had found an explanation
for their indifference and nervousness in each other's presence.
They put down their cold demeanour to the score of prudential
motives. According to them, their calmness, their abstin-
ence, were proofs of the highest wisdom. They persuaded
themselves that this lull of the passion, this slumber of the
heart, were in obedience to an effort of their will. Again,
they considered that the repugnance and uneasiness which
they were experiencing could be nothing more than the con-
sequence of the shock and a latent fear of retribution. Some-
110 THERESE RAQUIN.
times, they would force themselves into hope ; they would
woo once again the burning dreams of the past ; and when
they found that their imagination was a void, they were
struck with astonishment. Then they would buoy them-
selves up with the thought of their approaching marriage.
Surely, when they had attained their object, when all their
terrors had vanished, when they legally belonged to each
other, their passion would return in full force, they would
enjoy the delights of which they had so often dreamt. This
hope calmed them down, and saved them from sinking to
the bottom of the chaos which was forming within them.
They persuaded themselves that their love was as ardent as
of old ; they were awaiting the hour which, in uniting them
for ever, was to give them a happiness without alloy.
Therese had never been so calm in mind. She was cer-
tainly becoming a better woman. All the sternness of her
volition seemed to be relaxing.
Alone in her bed at night, she felt happy. She had to
endure no longer at her side Camille's thin face and puny
body that used to so exasperate her flesh and fill her with
unsatisfied desires. She fancied she was a little girl again,
a maiden between the white curtains, at peace in the dark
silence. Her room, which was spacious and rather cold,
was to her taste, with its lofty ceilings, its gloomy corners,
and its monastic odour. She even came to take a fancy to
the high black wall which rose over against the window.
Every evening during a whole summer she passed long
hours, looking at the grey stones of that wall, and the
narrow patches of starry sky between the chimney-pots and
the roofs. She never ga^e a thought to Laurent., except
when some nightmare woke her up with a start ; and then,
sitting up in the bed, trembling, her eyes dilated, huddling
herself up in her chemise, she would tell herself that she
would not be exposed to these sudden alarms if she had a
THERESE RAQUIN. Ill
man beside her. She thought of her lover then, as she -would
of a dog who could protect and watch over her. There was
not a single thrill of desire in her cool and equable tem-
In the day-time when she was in the shop, she would
take an interest in the outer world. She would wake up
now that she was no longer living in a state of secret rebel-
lion and feeding upon thoughts of hatred and revenge. It
bored her now to sit musing ; she felt a longing for occupa-
tion and movement. From morning to night she watched
the people who walked through the Passage. The noise,
the hurry to and fro, amused her. She was becoming
curious, and a chatterbox — in a word, a woman — for until
then she had acted and thought as would a man.
She espied one day from her post of observation a young
man, a student, who lived in furnished apartments close by,
and who passed the shop several times a day. This per-
sonage was pale and handsome, with the long hair of a poet
and the moustaches of an officer. Therese decided that he
was very distinguished-looking. Like any school-girl, she
fell in love with him — for a week. She took to reading
novels ; she compared the young man to Laurent ; and
very ponderous, very thick-set did Laurent appear to her.
Her course of reading opened out horizons of romance of
which as yet she had not even heard. She had only loved
with her flesh and her nerves, now she began to love with
her brain. And then one day the student disappeared ; no
doubt he had moved to another neighbourhood. In a few
hours The'rese had forgotten him.
She took out a subscription to a circulating library, and
proceeded to fall in love with the heroes of all the novels
she devoured. This new-born passion for reading produced
a great effect upon her temperament She became so
nervously sensitive that she would laugh or cry without the
112 THtiRfcSE EAQUIN.
slightest reason. The even balance into which her mind
had seemed to be settling was roughly shaken. She fell
into a sort of vague reverie. Now and then a recollection
of Camille gave her a shock, and her thoughts would turn
to Laurent with a fresh longing, full of alarm and mistrust.
She was thus delivered into the hands of her old tortures
once again. Now she would seek for the means of marry-
ing her lover without delay ; now she would contrive a plan
for escaping from him never to see him more. The high-
flown language of the novels about honour and chastity in-
terposed a sort of obstacle between her volition and her
instincts. She remained the same indomitable animal that
had conceived a struggle with the Seine, and had thrown
itself headlong into adultery ; but she began to understand
the existence of goodness and gentleness, to account for the
sad face and despairing mien of Olivier's wife, and to know
that a woman need not murder her husband and yet be
happy. Then she almost became doubtful of her own
identity, and lived in a state of the most wretched un-
On his side Laurent passed through several different
phases of alternate fever and tranquillity. At first he re-
mained in the enjoyment of the most absolute peace of
mind; he felt as it were relieved of an enormous burden.
Sometimes it would all seem to him nothing more than a
nightmare ; he would question himself in his astonishment ;
he would ask himself if it were really true that he had
thrown Camille into the water, and had really seen his
corpse on the slabs of the Morgue. The recollection of his
crime surprised him strangely; never would he have deemed
himself capable of committing murder; all that was prudent,
all that was cowardly in his composition shuddered, and
cold sweats rose on his brow when he thought that his
crime might have been discovered — might have brought
THtiRftSE RAQUIN. 113
him to the guillotine. At such moments he could feel the
sharp chill of the knife at his neck. As long as there was
need for action he had gone straight ahead with an obsti-
nacy and a blindness that was purely animal. Now that
he was looking back and could see the abyss which he had
just crossed, he was seized with a vertigo of terror.
" Certainly I must have been drunk," he thought j " that
woman had intoxicated me with her caresses. Good Lord !
what a fool and ass I was ! I was risking the guillotine on
a job like that. Well, all's well that ends well. But if it
had to be done over again, I wouldn't touch it ! "
Laurent collapsed, ran to seed, became more prudent and
more cowardly than ever. He grew fat and flabby. No
one who made a study of this unwieldy, piled-up carcase,
that seemed to contain neither bones nor nerves, would ever
have dreamt of suspecting it of any inclination either to
cruelty or to violence.
He resumed his old habits. For several months he was
a model clerk, performing his duties with the most exemp-
lary callousness. In the evening he dined at a cheap
eating-house in the Hue Saint-Victor, cutting up his bread
into thin slices, masticating slowly, dragging out his meal as
long as possible ; then he stretched himself out, leant
against the wall, and smoked his pipe. Tou would have
taken him for some fat old family-man. During the day he
thought simply about nothing at all ; at night his sleep was
heavy and dreamless. With his fat, rosy face, his well-lined
stomach, and his empty brain, he was happy.
His passions seemed to be dead ; the memory of Therese
was growing dim. He sometimes thought about her as one
does of the woman one is to marry some day in the
indefinite future. He was patiently awaiting the nuptial
hour, forgetful of the woman, dreaming only of the altered
position it would give him. He would give up the office ;
114 THERESE RAQUIN.
he would do some painting for amusement ; he would
lounge away the time. Such hopes as these induced him to
return every evening to the shop in the Passage, notwith-
standing the vague uneasiness which he felt whenever he
One Sunday he felt bored, and did not know what to do
with himself, so he went to see his old school friend, the
young painter, with whom he had shared lodgings so long.
The artist was working at a picture which he intended to
s end to the Salon, and of which the subject was a nude
Bacchante lying full length on a strip of drapery. At the
end of the studio a model, a woman, was lying down, her
head leant back, her body twisted, her hip raised. Every
now and then this woman broke into merry laughter, ex-
panding her chest, thrusting out her arms, and stretching
herself, as her position was somewhat cramped. Laurent,
who was sitting opposite her, kept his eyes fixed on her as
he smoked and talked to his friend. His blood throbbed in
his veins, his nerves were irritated by this contemplation.
He remained until nightfall, and then took the woman home
with him. He kept her as his mistress for nearly a year.
He seemed a handsome fellow enough to the poor girl, and
she fell in love with him. In the morning she used to go
out and pose to artists all day, and every evening she came
back to Laurent regularly at the same time. She fed,
dressed, and kept herself with the money that she earned,
thus not costing a sou to Laurent, who indeed cared nothing
as to whence she came or what she had been doing. This
woman became a sort of additional ballast to his existence ;
he accepted her as a necessary and useful adjunct, which
maintained his body in peace and health. He never knew
whether he loved her or not, and it never came into his
head that he was unfaithful to Therese. He was getting
fatter and jollier than ever — that was all.
THERESE RAQUIN. 115
Meanwhile, Therese's mourning had come to an end.
The young woman now wore coloured dresses, and it came
to pass that one evening she seemed to Laurent decidedly
younger and better looking than of old. But he still ex-
perienced a certain uneasiness in her presence. For some
time past she seemed to him to be feverish, full of strange
caprices, ready to laugh or to cry without reason. The
indecision which he noticed' in her frightened him, for he
could partly guess at her struggles and her troubles. He
began to hesitate, as he was dreadfully afraid of risking his
peace of mind. For his part, he was living a quiet life
which amply satisfied his every appetite, and he was afraid
to imperil the equable tenor of his existence in binding him-
self to a nervous creature who had already maddened him
with her passions. Besides, there was no need to analyse
matters. He felt instinctively that possession of Therese
would carry with it a world of trouble for him.
The first shock which came to shake him out of his apathy
was the thought that the time had now arrived to com-
mence preparations for marriage. Fifteen months had now
elapsed since Camille's death. For a moment it occurred
. to Laurent that he need not marry at all, that he could
leave Therese in the lurch, and keep on the model, whose
compliant and inexpensive affection was all-sufficient for
him. Then he reminded himself that he could not have
killed a man for nothing. When he recalled to mind the
crime, and the terrible ordeal he had gone through for the
sole possession of the woman who was now disquieting him,
he felt that the murder would become a thing useless and
atrocious if he did not marry her. To throw a man into the
river, ^o rob him of his widow, to wait fifteen months, and
then to make up his mind to be content with a girl who
exhibited herself in every studio, seemed to him a very
ridiculous idea, and made him laugh. Besides, was he not
116 THERESE RAQUIST.
bound to Therese by a bond of blood and of horror 1 He
could almost feel her clamouring and writhing within him ;
he belonged to her. He was afraid of his accomplice.
Perhaps, if he did not marry her, she would go and confess
everything to the police out of revenge and jealousy.
These thoughts chased each other through his brain. The
fever was consuming him again.
About this time, the model left him abruptly. One Sun-
day, the girl did not come home ; no doubt she had found a
warmer and a more comfortable lodging. Laurent was but
moderately put out ; the only thing was, he had got accus-
tomed to having a woman beside him at night, and her ab-
sence produced a sort of sudden void in his existence. After
about a week he felt he could not stand it any longer. He
began once more to pass whole evenings at the shop in the
Passage ; and he was soon looking at Therese as of old, with
eyes that flashed an intermittent fire. The young woman,
who generally had come to the end of a long spell of reading
in a thrill of excitement, would sigh as she yielded herself
to the fascination of his gaze.
They had thus both fallen back into a distracted and
voluptuous frame of mind, after a long year of apathetic and
dispirited patience. One evening Laurent, who was shutting
up the shop, detained Therese in the Passage for a moment.
" Shall I come up to your room to-night?" he asked, in an
ardent tone of voice.
The young woman made a terrified gesture.
" No, no, let us wait," said she, :< let us be prudent."
"I've waited long enough, I think," returned Laurent; "I'm
sick of it. I want you ! "
Therese looked at him in great agitation, her face and her
hands were burning hot. She seemed to hesitate ; then she
said abruptly :
" Let us get married ! I shall be all jours then."
Laurent left the Passage in a highly-strung state of nervous
commotion. Th&ese's agitation and abrupt consent had
again roused all his former longings. He decided to go
home by the quays, and walked along with his hat in his
hand in order to cool his face with all the breeze that was
When lie reached the Rue Saint- Victor, and the door of
the house where he lived, he was afraid to go in, to find him-
self alone. Some childish apprehension, as inexplicable as
it was unexpected, made him tremble lest he should discover
a man hidden in his garret. Never before had he given
way to such fits of cowardice. He did not even try to ex-
plain to himself the strange shudder which had come upon
him j he hurried into a wine-shop and stopped there an hour,
until midnight, sitting speechless and motionless at a table,
and mechanically draining bumper after bumper of wine.
He was thinking about Therese ; he was angry with the
young woman for not having chosen to admit him to her
room at once, for he felt sure that he would not have had
this fright if he had been in her company.
Closing-time came, and he was put out with the rest of
the customers. He went in again, however, to ask for some
matches; the porter's lodge at his place was on the first floor,
and before being able to get his candle, there was a long
alley to traverse and several steps to climb. The thought
of this alley and this bit of staircase, both terribly dark,
frightened him out of his wits. Generally, he could tread
118 THJiRfiSE EAQUItt.
that darkness boldly enough. But that evening he did not
dare to ring the bell ; he fancied that, in a certain recess
by the cellar entrance, there might be some ruffians lying in
wait to spring at his throat suddenly as he passed. At last,
he rang, lighted a match, and made a determined plunge
into the alley. The match went out. He stood there quite
still, panting, without even the pluck to run away, rubbing
matches against the damp wall with a hand trembling with
anxiety. He conjured up the sound of voices and foot-
steps ahead of him. The matches kept breaking in his
fingers. At last he succeeded in getting one alight. The
sulphur began to bubble, to fire the wood so slowly that it
redoubled Laurent's terrors; the pale and bluish glare of the
sulphur, with its wavering gleam, revealed to his imagination
all sorts of monstrosities. Then the wood crackled, the
light became white and clear. Laurent, somewhat com-
forted, stepped on with precaution, taking care not to let
out his light. When he had to pass the cellar, he hugged
the opposite wall; there was a deep shadow there that
frightened him. He then rushed up the few steps that led
to the porter's lodge, and only thought himself safe when he
had got hold of his candle. He went up the other flights
more quietly, with his candle at arm's length, and ex-
ploring all the corners he had to pass. The great fantastic
shadows that come and go when one is lighting oneself up a
staircase, filled him with a vague disquiet as they rose
abruptly before him and then disappeared.
When he had reached his landing, lie opened his door and
hurriedly shut himself in. His first care was to look under
his bed, and subject his room to a minute inspection, to
ascertain if anybody were hiding there. He closed the sky-
light, thinking that it might give admittance to some
enemy. When he had taken these precautions, he felt
much calmer ; he undressed himself, astonished at his own.,
THEKE.SK RAQUIN. 119
pusillanimity. He ended by laughing at himself and calling
himself a great baby. He had never been timid, and he
was unable to account for this sudden attack of nervous-
He went to bed. When he had got between the warm
sheets, the thought of Therese, whom he had forgotten in
his alarm, occurred to him again. Although he closed his
eyes obstinately, and was trying to fall asleep, he felt that,
despite him, his brain was at work, imposing its will upon
him, and suggesting to him in orderly sequence the various
advantages that he would gain by getting married as soon
as possible. Every now and then he would turn over and
say to himself : "I won't think about it. I must get to
sleep. I have to be up at eight o'clock to-morrow morning
to go to the office." And he tried his best to doze off. But
his conjectures were forming again one by one ; his reason-
ing was resuming its dull work ; very soon he found him-
self plunged into a sort of sharp-set reverie, which was
displaying in the depths of his brain the necessity for his
marriage, and the arguments which in turn his desire and
his prudence had advanced for and against his possessing
Then, finding it impossible to sleep,' and that this wake-
fulness was irritating his nervous system, he turned on his
back, opened his eyes wide, and permitted the memory of
the young woman to invade his brain. He had lost all
control over his evenly balanced disposition ; the burning
fever of old held him once more in its grasp. It occurred to
him to get up and go back to the Passage du Pont-Neuf.
He would have the gate opened ; he would go and knock at
the little staircase-door, and Therese would admit him.
The blood rushed up to his neck at the idea.
There was a remarkable lucidity in this reverie of his.
He could see himself in the streets, walking fast along the
120 THERESE RAQUIN.
houses, and he kept saying to himself : " I must go down
this Boulevard, I must cross at this turning, to get there
the sooner." Then he could hear the gate of the Passage
creak; he went down the narrow arcade, all dark and
deserted, congratulating himself on being able to go up to
Therese without being observed by the dealer in imitation
jewellery; then he imagined himself in the alley, on the little
staircase he had so often ascended. There, he experienced
the pungent raptures of the past; he remembered the
charming dangers, the poignant delights of adultery. His
recollections were becoming realities, which affected all his
senses ; he could smell the faint odour of the corridor, he
could feel the slimy walls, he could see the dirty shadows
that hung about. And he went up each step, panting,
listening, and satisfying his passion by anticipation in that
timid approach of the woman he longed for. And at last he
was tapping at the door, the door opened, and Therese was
there awaiting him, all white in her deshabille.
These fancies succeeded each other in his mind like a
sequence of real events. With his eyes fixed on darkness,
he could see. When at the end of his tramp through the
streets, after going down the Passage and ascending the
little staircase, he fancied he saw Therese, pale and ardent,
before him, he leapt out of bed at a bound, muttering : " I
must go to her, she is waiting for me." The sudden change
of position dispelled the hallucination ; the cold floor chilled
him; he was frightened. For a moment he stood there,
bare-footed, motionless, listening. He fancied he could hear
a noise on the landing. If he went to Therese, he would
have to pass once more before the cellar-door downstairs ; a
violent cold shudder ran down his back even to think of it.
He was seized again with fright, a stupid but crushing
fright. He looked suspiciously round the room, and saw
whitish strips of light about it ; then, quietly, and with
THEEESE RAQUIN. 121
every precaution that his anxious haste would permit, he
crept back to his bed, and, once there, huddled himself up,
hid himself as though to avoid some weapon, some kuife
which menaced him.
The blood gushed up into his neck, and his neck was on
fire. He put his hand-to it ; he felt the scar of Camille's
bite beneath his fingers. He had almost forgotton that
bite. He was horrified to find it still there on his skin ; it
seemed to be eating away his flesh. In order to feel it no
longer he had sharply withdrawn his hand ; but he could
still feel it corroding, drilling his neck. Then he thought
he would scratch it gently, just with the tip of his nail ; it
only burnt twice as fiercely as before. In order not to lacer-
ate his skin, he clinched his two hands between his bent
knees ; and thus he remained, stiff and exasperated, with a
gnawing at his neck, and his teeth chattering with fright.
Now his ideas kept clinging to Camille with ghastly per-
sistence. Never until then had the drowned man disturbed
Laurent's slumbers. And lo ! the first dream about
Therese raised her husband's ghost. The murderer did not
dare, now, to open his eyes; he was afraid of espying his
victim in some corner of the room. Once he fancied that
his bed was being shaken in a queer way ; he imagined that
Camille must be lying hid beneath, and that it was he who
was shaking it so, to tumble him out of it and then bite
him. With a haggard face and every hair standing on end,
he gripped hold of the mattress, fully persuaded that the
shocks were increasing in violence.
Then he perceived that the bed was not moving. That
brought about a reaction. He sat up, lighted his candle,
and cursed himself for a fool. To allay his fever, he gulped
down a large glass of water.
" I oughtn't to have got drinking at that dram-shop," he
thought. " I don't know what's the matter with me to-
122 THE&fiSE EAQUIN.
night. It's absurd. I shall feel awfully seedy at the office
all day. I ought to have gone to sleep directly I went to
bed, and not bothered my head with a lot of rubbish; that's
what has kept me awake. Let's go to sleep."
He blew out the light once more. Somewhat refreshed,
he buried his head in the pillow, fully determined not to
think, not to be frightened again. His nerves were becom-
ing relaxed with fatigue.
He did not fall into his accustomed profound and heavy
sleep ; he glided gradually into a sort of vague somnolence.
He was, as it were, merely benumbed — steeped in a kind of
mild and voluptuous torpor. His body was awake as he
slept ; his understanding was alive in his inanimate form.
He had put to flight the thoughts that thronged upon him ;
he had evaded his vigil. But when he dozed off, when he
lost the control of his muscles and the mastery of his will,
his thoughts came back quietly, one after another, and re-
sumed possession of his faltering being. His reverie returned
to him. Once again he travelled the distance that separated
him from Therese; he went downstairs, he ran full speed
past the cellar, and found himself outside the house; he
hurried along all the streets through which he had passed
before, when he was dreaming with his eyes open ; he went
into the Passage du Pont-Neuf, ascended the little staircase,
and tapped at the door. But instead of Therese, instead of
the young woman in deshabille, displaying her bare bosom,
it was Camille who opened to his summons — Camille as he
had seen him at the Morgue, turning green, and unspeak-
ably disfigured. And the corpse held out its arms to him
with a ghoulish laugh, showing a bit of blackened tongue
between the whiteness of its teeth.
Laurent uttered a yell of horror and woke up with a
start. He was bathed in icy perspiration. He dragged
up the counterpane over his eyes, cursing himself, and
THERESE RAQUIN. 123
getting into a rage with himself. He tried to fall asleep
He did fall asleep again, as before, gradually. The same
lassitude came upon him ; and as soon as his volition had
escaped him in the languor of semi-somnolence, he started
on his errand again : he returned to where his master-passion
was leading him, he hurried along to see Therese, and it was
again the drowned man that opened the door to him.
Terrified, the villain sat up in his bed. He would have
given the world to drive away this implacable dream. He
longed for a slumber of lead wherein he might be free from
his thoughts. So long as he kept awake, he had enough
strength left to put his victim's ghost to flight ; but as soon
as he lost the mastery of his brain, his brain led him to
fright, on the way to voluptuousness.
He gave sleep another trial. Then came a succession of
voluptuous lethargies, and abrupt and heart-rending awaken-
ings. In his mad obstinacy, he was for ever seeking out
Therese, and for ever coming into contact with Camille's
corpse. More than a dozen times running he retraced his
road ; he started boiling with ardour, went the same way,
felt the same sensations, did the same things, with minute
exactness, and, more than a dozen times he beheld the
drowned man offer himself to his embrace, when he stretched
forth his arms to clasp his mistress to his heart. This same
ominous result, which woke him up every time in gasping
distraction, did not dishearten his passion ; a few minutes
after, as soon as he fell asleep again, his desire would forget
the ghastly corpse which awaited it, and hurry off anew to
seek the warm supple body of a woman. During a whole
hour, Laurent lived through this succession of nightmares,
this awful dream that was always repeating itself and yet
always came to such an unexpected conclusion, that shattered
' him, at every start, with a keener terror.
124 THtiRftSE RAQUIN.
One of these shocks, the last, was so violent and so pain-
ful, that he determined to give up the struggle and get up,
Day was breaking ; a grey and sullen dawn was appearing
through the skylight, which was now a square of cindery
Laurent dressed himself slowly, in a state of latent irrita-
tion. He was furious at having been unable to sleep, at
having allowed himself to give way to a fright which he now
looked upon as a silly scare. While he put on his trousers,
he stretched himself, he rubbed his limbs, he smoothed down
his face, which was wasted and drawn by his feverish night.
" I oughtn't to have thought about all that," he kept re-
peating to himself. " I ought to have had a good sleep ; I
should be fresh as paint at the present moment if I had.
Ah ! if Th^rese had only chosen last night ; if Therese had
been with me — ! "
The idea that Th&rese would have prevented him feeling
frightened calmed him down a little. For indeed he already
dreaded the prospect of passing other nights like the one he
had just endured.
He dashed some water in his face, and then touched up
his hair with a comb. This apology for a toilette cooled his
head, and dissipated his last remnants of fear. He could
think sensibly now ; the only disagreeable sensation he ex-
perienced was a violent aching in every limb.
"And yet I am no coward," he said to himself as he
finished dressing ; " I don't care a snap of the fingers for
Camille ! It was ridiculous to fancy the poor devil could be
under my bed. And now, perhaps, I shall come to fancy so
every night. Decidedly I must get married as soon as
possible. When I am safe in TMrese's arms, I sha'n't
bother much about Camille. She will kiss me on the neck,
and I shall never feel that horrid burning sensation again.
Let's have a look at the bite."
THERESE RAQUEST. 125
He went up to his looking-glass, stretched his neck, and
looked. The scar was of a pale rose colour. Laurent ex-
perienced a certain emotion when he made out the mark of
his victim's teeth ; the blood rushed to his head, and then
he observed a strange phenomenon. The scar was em-
purpled by the rising flood ; it became bright and bloody ;
it stood out, all red, on the fat white neck. At the same
time Laurent felt sharp pricklings, as if needles had been
forced into the wound. He hastened to raise his shirt collar.
" Bah ! " he muttered, " Therese will heal that. A few of
her kisses will be enough. What a fool I am to think about
such things ! "
He put on his hat and went down. He was longing for
the open air, longing to be walking about. As he passed
before the cellar-door he smiled ; but he took the precaution,
nevertheless, of testing the solidity of the padlock which
fastened that door. When he got outside he fell to walking
slowly, in the fresh morning air, along the deserted pave-
ment. It was about five o'clock.
Laurent had a dreadful day of it. He had to fight with
the overwhelming somnolence that assailed him at the office
in the afternoon. His heavy and benumbed head nodded in
spite of him, and he had to raise it abruptly every time he
heard the step of one of his superiors. This struggle, these
shocks, completed the general break-up of his system, and
put him into a state of intolerable anxiety.
In the evening, notwithstanding his lassitude, he went to
see Therese. He found her as feverish, as dejected, as tired
out as himself.
" Our poor Therese has had a bad night," said Madame
Eaquin, when he had sat down. "It seems she had the
nightmare — couldn't sleep at all. Several times I heard her
scream out. She was quite ill with it this morning."
While her aunt was speaking, Therese was fixing her eyes
126 THfiRJ&SE EAQUIN.
upon Laurent. No doubt they guessed at their common
fears, for a nervous shudder passed over both their faces.
They remained opposite to each other till ten o'clock, con-
versing upon different subjects, but understanding each
other, and conjuring each other with a lopk to hasten the
moment when they could combine against the drowned man.
Thebese too had been visited by Camille's ghost during that
Laurent's burning proposal asking her to receive him,
after a year or more of indifference, had produced in her an
abrupt commotion. Her flesh began to tingle when, alone
and in bed, she thought of her approaching marriage. And
then, in the midst of her racking wakefulness, the drowned
man had appeared to her; like Laurent, she had tossed
about in fits of alternate desire and affright, and, like
Laurent, she had persuaded herself that she would tremble
no longer — she would no longer be exposed to such tortures
when she held her lover in her arms.
At the same moment a sort of nervous derangement had
taken place in~this woman and this man, which yielded
them up, palpitating and terror-stricken prisoners, to their
horrible amours. A relationship of blood and passion had
arisen between them. They shuddered with the same
shudders; the same throes set their hearts throbbing in a
kind of fraternity of pain. From that time forth they
possessed between them but one body, one soul, to enjoy or
to suffer. This incorporation, this reciprocal grafting, is a
psychological and physiological fact which has been often
observed in the case of persons whom some great nervous
shock has hurled into violent contact with each other.
For more than a year Th^rese and Laurent had, with a
light heart, worn the chain which was riveted to them and
which united them. In the depression which succeeded to
128 THERESE EAQUIN.
the acute crisis of the murder, in the repulsion and the
craving for peace and oblivion which followed, these two
galley-slaves came to fancy themselves free, to believe them-
selves no longer connected by a link of iron. Their slack-
ened chain was dragging the ground; for their part, they
were taking their ease, they were wrapped in a sort of
pleasant torpor; they tried to win themselves other loves
to regulate their lives philosophically. But the very day
when, driven by events, they had again come to speak in
the language of passion, the sudden strain upon their chain
gave them such a shock that they felt it muBt bind them for
ever to each other.
From the morrow, Therese set to work quietly, and
brought all her cunning to bear upon the compassing of her
marriage with Laurent. Her task was a difficult one, and
replete with peril. The chief danger that the lovers had to
dread was that of acting imprudently, awakening suspicion,
revealing too abruptly the interest they had had in Camille's
death. Aware that it was not from them that the sugges-
tion of a marriage should come, they decided upon a most
astute course — that of getting Madame Eaquin herself, and
the Thursday visitors, to offer them the boon they had
not the courage to crave. All they had to do was to
put the idea of re-marrying Ther&se into these worthy
people's heads, and, above all, to persuade them that
the idea originated with them, and was therefore wholly
The comedy was long, and required clever acting.
Therese and Laurent had each taken the part that suited
them. They proceeded with the utmost prudence, calcula-
ting the effect of their least gesture, their least word.
Truth to tell, they were consumed by an impatience that
was straining their nerves to the utmost. They were living
in the midst of a restless swarm of irritants, and they
THfiKfcSE RAQUIN. 129
needed all their craven dread of betraying themselves to
force a smile, or assume an indifferent demeanour.
If they were eager for the fall of the curtain, it was be-
cause they could no longer bear to live separate and alone.
Every night the drowned man visited them ; and a demon
of wakefulness kept them stretched on a bed of fiery coals,
and turned them over with red-hot tongs. The enervated
state in which they were living exacerbated the fever of
their blood, every evening, with the awful hallucinations
which it conjured up. Ther&se dared no longer go up to
her room in the twilight ; she suffered actual pain when at
last she had to shut herself up in the big room, which be-
came weirdly luminous, and harboured apparitions as soon
as she put out the light. She ended by keeping her candle
alight, by resolving not to sleep, in order to keep her eyes
wide open. And when her eyelids closed with fatigue, she
saw Camille in the darkness, and she opened her eyes again
with a start. The next morning she would drag herself
about, worn out through want of sleep, having indeed only
slept a few hours at daylight.
As for Laurent, he had become quite a coward since
the night he was so frightened at the cellar-door. Before
that he had lived on in animal security ; now, the
slightest noise made him tremble and turn pale, like a
little boy. One shudder of terror had abruptly shaken
his limbs, and had not again relaxed its grip. At night
he suffered even more than Ther&se. Terrible were the
convulsions that fear produced on that flabby, cowardly
carcase. It was with the most agonized apprehension
tbat he noted the decline of day. Several times it
occurred to him to prefer not to go home at all, and
pass whole nights in tramping the deserted streets. Once,
when it was raining in torrents, he stayed under a bridge
till morning. There, huddled together, cold as ice, without
130 THriftilSE RAQUIN.
tbe courage to rise and go up to the quay, he watched the
dirty water flowing in the whitish gloom for nearly sis
hours. Now and then he fell flat upon the muddy shore in a
spasm of horror ; for under the bridge he seemed to see an
endless procession of drowned persons swooping past with the
current. When utter weariness drove him home, he double-
locked the door, and went to bed to toss about till dawn in
frightful paroxysms of fever. The same nightmare perse-
cuted him persistently. He seemed ever to be falling from
Thdrese's ardent and passionate embrace into Camille's
freezing and viscous arms. He began by dreaming that his
mistress was suffocating him with caresses, and then that
the drowned man was hugging him to his putrid breast
with an icy clasp. And these abrupt and alternate sensa-
tions of delight and disgust — this contact, now with a warm
heart, beating with love, now with a cold corpse, sodden
with slime — set him panting and shuddering and howling in
And every day intensified the terror of the lovers ; every
day the nightmare assailed them with more crushing, more
maddening effect. Their only hope now was that they would
be able to cure their wakefulness with their kisses. From
prudential motives, they did not venture to renew their
stolen interviews ; they were awaiting the wedding-day as a
day of salvation, which would be followed by a happy night.
Thus it came to pass that they longed to be united with
all the craving they had for a night of placid rest. During
the period of their indifference, they had hesitated, having
both forgotten the selfish and wicked object which had
tempted them to commit murder, and had then, as it were,
evaporated. When they found the fever upon them again,
the original object which had induced them to kill Camille,
the prospect of bliss which they thought lawful wedlock
would ensure, revived again in the depths of their selfishness
THERESE RAQU1N. 131
and their passion. Besides, it was with a vague feeling of
despair that they had come to the final determination of
publicly uniting their destinies. In the bottom of their
hearts they were afraid. Their desire was thrilling them.
They were bent, in a manner, over each other, as over an abyss
which had fascinated them with its horrors ; they were gaz-
ing down, reciprocally, into their entity, mute, clinging,
while a giddiness, exquisitely voluptuous, enervated their
limbs, and lured them over the brink. But, face to face
with the present, with their anxious expectation and their
timid desires, they felt the imperious necessity for shutting
their eyes to possibilities, for picturing to themselves a
future of happy love and peaceful enjoyment. The more
they trembled in each other's presence, the better they could
imagine the horrors of the chasm into which they were about
to hurl themselves, and the oftener they attempted to de-
ceive themselves with promises of happiness, to remind
themselves of the irrevocable events which were relentlessly
driving them to marriage.
Therese wanted to get married solely because she was
afraid, and felt the need of her Laurent's violent caresses.
She was passing through a nervous crisis that almost drove
her mad. Truth to tell, she reasoned with herself very
little ; she abandoned herself to her passion, with her mind
unhinged by the novels she had last read, and her whole
system irritated by the cruel visions which had kept her
awake for so many weeks.
Laurent, who was not nearly so thin-skinned, was not
without arguments to fortify him in his decision, although
he gave way freely to his terrors and desires. In order to
prove to himself beyond a doubt that this marriage was an
absolute necessity, and that he was at last about to live in
perfect happiness, in order to put to flight the vague fears
that beset him, he went through all his old calculations
132 THERESE RAQUIN.
afresh. As his father, the old Jeufosse peasant, was obstin-
ately living on, he reminded himself that he might have to
wait a long time for his inheritance ; indeed, that it might
never reach him at all, but find its way into the pockets of
a cousin of his, a strapping fellow who was content to ply a
spade to the entire satisfaction of old Laurent. And he
would always be poor, he would have to live in a garret
without a wife, with a hard bed every night and a bad dinner
every day. Besides, he did not want to have to work all
his life ; he was beginning to find his office a fearful bore ;
his idle disposition turned the light duties that he had to
perform into an intolerable burden. The result of his medi-
tations was always that supreme felicity consists in being
able to live without doing anything. Then he remembered
that he had drowned Camille in order to marry Therese, and
live ever after without doing anything. Certainly the pro-
spect of having his mistress all to himself had gone for a
good deal in the conception of the crime, but he had been
tempted to murder far more perhaps by the hope of taking
Camille's place, of being coddled up like him, and of
enjoying the same hourly beatitude ; if it had been
passion alone that was urging him on, he would not
have manifested so much cowardice, so much prudence.
The truth was, that he had not hesitated to murder his
friend in order to insure a peaceful and lazy existence, and
the permanent gratification of his every appetite. All these
considerations, avowed or unspoken, flocked back to his mind.
He kept repeating to himself, as a consolation, that it was
now high time to be enjoying the legitimate advantages of
Camille's death. And he displayed to himself the profits,
the pleasures of his future existence : he would be able to
give up the office, to live in delicious idleness ; he would be
able to eat, drink, sleep his fill ; he would always have a
loving woman to his hand who would re-establish the even
TH^RfcSE RAQUIN. 133
balance of his blood and his nerves ; soon he would come in
for Madame Raquin's forty odd thousand francs, for the poor
old woman was dying by inches every day ; in a word, he
would secure the happy life of an animal — he would forget
Ever since the marriage had been settled between
Therese and himself, Laurent thought of scarcely any-
thing but all this ; he even tried to discover further
advantages to be gained thereby, and he became quite joy-
ful when he fancied he had found some fresh argument, in
the depths of his selfishness, that compelled him to marry
the drowned man's widow. But to no avail did he force
himself into hope ; to no avail did he dream out a fat future
of sloth and voluptuousness ; he still felt sudden shudders
that froze his blood, he still experienced, now and then, an
anxiety that choked all the exultation in his throat.
Nevertheless, Therese's and Laurent's machinations were
bearing fruit. Therese had assumed a sombre and despair-
ing attitude that in a very few days succeeded in making
Madame Raquin quite anxious. The old lady insisted on
knowing what was the cause of her niece's sadness. Then
the young woman played her part of the disconsolate widow
with admirable skill ; she hinted at worry, depression,
nervous attacks, in vague terms, without precisely complain-
ing about anything. When her aunt plied her with ques-
tions, she answered that she felt quite well, that she did not
know what it was that depressed her so, that she could not
account for her fits of weeping. And she went in for a
course of stolen sobs, pale heart-breaking smiles, speechless
and unutterable despair. The end of it was, that Madame
Raquin became seriously alarmed to see the young woman
bowed down like this, and, to all seeming, unaccountably
fading away ; her niece was the only one she had left in the
world, and every night she prayed that the child might be
spared to close her eyes. There was a touch of selfishness
in this last love of her old age. The thought that she
might lose Therese, and die all alone in the damp shop down
the Passage, reminded her keenly of how few were the com-
forts of her existence. From that moment she watched her
niece's every movement, she studied with dread the young
woman's every symptom, she spent hours in wondering what
she could do to alleviate that silent despair.
Under such serious circumstances, she thought it best to
THriRjfcSE RAQTJ1N. 135
ask the opinion of her old friend Michaud. One Thursday
evening she detained him in the shop, and unbosomed her-
self of her fears.
" Why, of course ! " exclaimed the old man, with pro-
fessional bluntness, " I have long noticed that Therese has
got a fit of the sulks, and I know well enough why she
looks so pale and miserable."
" You know the reason ? " cried the old lady. " Come,
tell me quick ! If we could only hope for a cure ! "
" Oh ! the prescription is simple enough," returned
Michaud, with a laugh. " Your niece is dull because she
has been alone of a night in her room these two years past.
What she wants is a husband ; one can see it in her eyes."
The ex-commissary of police's bluntness gave Madame
Eaquin a painful shock. She had thought that the wound
which, ever since the awful accident at Saint-Ouen, was still
bleeding within her, had been throbbing just as vividly, just
as grievously all the while in the young widow's heart.
After her son's death she could not conceive the possi-
bility of married life for her niece. And here was Michaud
gaily asseverating that Therese was ill for want of a
" Marry her off as soon as possible," he said on his way
out, " if you don't want to see her pine away altogether.
That is my advice, my dear lady ; and it is the best, believe
Madame Kaquin could not accustom herself all at once to
the idea that her son was already forgotten. Old Michaud
had not even mentioned Camille's name, and he had not
scrupled to make Therese's supposed illness a subject for his
jokes. The poor mother understood that it was she alone
who kept her dear boy's memory alive in her heart. She
wept bitterly ; it seemed to her that Camille had just died
for the second time. Then, when she had had a good cry,
136 THERESE EAQUIN.
and was tired out with sorrowing, Michaud's words came
back to her, despite herself ; and she tried to accustom her-
self to the idea of purchasing a little happiness even at the
price of a marriage which, to her delicate nature, seemed to
be slaughtering her son afresh. It made her quite nervous
to find herself in the presence of Therese, sad and despondent
in the midst of the icy silence of the shop. Hers was none
of those stiff and dry characters which seem to take a morbid
pleasure in resigning themselves to a life-long despair ; hers
was a pliant, devoted, expansive nature — the nature of a
good old dame, whose good-humour and affability impel her
irresistibly to a life of active kindness. Existence had be-
come intolerable for her ever since her niece had relapsed
into silence ; while she was sitting there, pallid and weak,
the shop seemed like a tomb ; and Madame Raquin's only
desire was to be surrounded with a warm affection, living
mterests, loving caresses, a bright and gentle something that
should enable her to await her death in peace.
It was this unconscious sentiment that led her to entertain
the idea of re-marrying Therese ; she even at times found
herself forgetting her son ; an awakening took place in the
dead-alive existence she was leading ; she had lighted upon
a new incentive, a fresh occupation for her mind. She was
seeking a husband for her niece, and that taxed her mental
powers to the full. This choice of a husband was a serious
business ; the poor old woman was thinking more of herself
than of Therese ; she wanted to marry her so as to ensure
her own happiness, for she was desperately afraid that the
young woman's new husband might prove a disturbing
element to the last days of her old age. The thought that
she was about to introduce a stranger into her every-day life
frightened her, prevented her talking matrimony to her
niece as openly as she had intended.
While Therese, whose education had made her a past
THERESE RAQUIN. 137
mistress in all the arts of hypocrisy, was playing the part of
a woman bored to death and bowed down with dejection,
Laurent had assumed the rdle of a considerate and useful
friend. . He was always rendering himself necessary to the
two women, particularly to Madame Raquin, whom he de-
lighted with his delicate attentions. Little by little he
became indispensable in the shop ; he alone infused a little
gaiety into the gloom of the dingy place. When he did not
happen to be there in the evening, the old lady would look
about her uneasily, as though she missed something, and
almost felt afraid of being left alone with Therese's despair.
Besides, Laurent never missed an evening except with the
object of consolidating his influence. He went to the shop
every day on his way back from the office, and stayed there
till the Passage gates were closed. He executed all Madame
Raquin's commissions, he handed her any little thing she
might be wanting, for she could only walk with difficulty.
Then he made himself at home ; he started a conversation.
He discovered a gentle but emotional actor's voice ; and he
used it to charm the good old lady's heart and ears. Above
all, he manifested the deepest interest in Therese's health —
the interest of a true friend, of a kindly soul who suffers at
the sight of another's woe. Several times he took Madame
Raquin aside, and horrified her by his expressions of alarm
at the .alteration, the wasting, that he had noticed in the
young woman's face.
" We shall soon be losing her," he murmured with tears
in his voice. " We cannot blind ourselves to the fact that
she is very, very ill. Ah ; me ! our poor lost happiness ; our
pleasant, quiet little evenings ! "
Madame Raquin listened to him in agony. Laurent
pushed his audacity so far as to mention Camille by name.
"You see," he continued, "my poor friend's death was
a terrible blow to her. She lias been dying by inches these
138 THl^RESE RAQUIN.
two years past, ever since the fatal day when she lost
Camille. There is no consolation, there is no cure for grief
such as hers. We must resign ourselves to the inevitable."
These impudent lies set the hot tears flowing fast from the
old lady's eyes. These allusions to her dead son upset and
blinded her. Every time she heard Camille's name she
burst out sobbing ; she gave way to her sorrow ; she could
have kissed the lips that mentioned her poor child's name.
Laurent had not failed to notice that the effect of his name
upon her was at once to agitate and to soothe. He was able
to make her weep at pleasure, to shatter her with emotions
that obscured her clear view of things ; and he abused his
power in order to keep her always a pliant and ready instru-
ment to his hand. Every evening, notwithstanding the
inward repulsion that thrilled through him, he brought
round the conversation to Camille's rare qualities, tendei
heart, and polished wit ; he praised his victim up to the skies
with the most consummate impudence. Now and then,
when he caught Therese fixing her eyes strangely upon his,
he shuddered, and finished by himself believing all the good
he had been saying of the drowned man ; then he held his
tongue, seized with an access of violent jealousy, and
trembled lest the widow should happen to love the man
whom he had thrown in the water, and whom he was now
praising up with all the conviction of a lunatic. During
the whole of the conversation, Madame Eaquin was in tears,
and could not see for weeping. And while she wept she was
thinking that Laurent had a loving and generous heart ; he
was the only one to give her son a thought ; he was the only
one to talk of him still with a voice trembling with emotion.
Then she wiped away her tears ; she gazed upon the young
man with an infinite tenderness ; she loved him as her own
One Thursday evening, Michaud and Grivet were already
THfiKfcSE RAQUIN. 139
in the dining-room when Laurent came in, and, going up to
Therese, inquired about her health with a tender, solicitude.
He sat down a moment at her side, and played his part of
the affectionate and anxious friend for the benefit of the as-
sembled company. As the young people sat next each
other, exchanging a few words, Michaud, who was looking
at them, bent over, and, pointing at Laurent, whispered to
the old lady :
" Look there ! That's the husband for your niece. You
ought to bring about the match at once. We will help you,
And Michaud laughed a jolly laugh. In his opinion, what
Therese wanted was a vigorous husband. A ray of light
flashed, as it were, on Madame Kaquin. She perceived on a
sudden all the advantages which, personally, she would de-
rive from an alliance between Therese and Laurent. This
marriage would only strengthen the bonds that united them
already — herself and her niece — to her son's friend, to this
kind-hearted fellow, who came every evening to cheer them
up. In adopting this course, she would not be introducing
a stranger into the family, she would run no risk of being
unhappy ; on the contrary, while she provided Therese with
a helpmate, she would, at the same timej be infusing an ad-
ditional element of gladness into her old age, she would find
a second son in the person of this young man, who had
manifested a truly filial affection for her for three years past.
Then, it seemed to her that in marrying Laurent, Therese
would be less unfaithful to Camille's memory. There is an
ineffable delicacy in the religion of the heart. Madame
Raquin, who would have wept to see the young widow in
the arms of a stranger, experienced no repugnance at the
thought of entrusting her to the love of her son's old friend.
She was thinking, as the saying has it, that it would not go
out of the family.
140 THERESE RAQUIN.
During the whole evening, while her guests played do-
minoes, the old lady kept her eyes fixed on the couple with
so obvious an emotion that the young man and the young
woman soon guessed that their comedy was a success, and
that the end was at hand. Before he left, Michaud had a
short conversation in undertones with Madame Kaquin ; then
he took Laurent's arm ostentatiously, and announced that he
was going to see him home. As Laurent left the room, he
exchanged a swift glance with Therese, a glance full of
Michaud had undertaken to ascertain how matters stood.
He found that, though the young man was thoroughly de-
voted to the ladies in question, he was much surprised at
the idea of a marriage between Therese and himself.
Laurent added, with emotion, that he loved his poor friend's
widow like a sister, and that it would seem almost a sacri-
lege to him to marry her. The ex-commissary of police in-
sisted ; he brought forward hundreds of good reasons to gain
his point ; he even spoke of it as a duty incumbent upon
the young man to restore a son to Madame Raquin, and a
husband to Therese. Little by little, Laurent allowed him-
self to be convinced ; he pretended to give way to emotion,
to look upon the idea of this marriage as an idea inspired by
Heaven, and, as old Michaud said, dictated by devotion and
duty. When Michaud had obtained a formal consent, he
rubbed his hands, and left his companion ; he thought he
had just won a great victory, he congratulated himself on
having been the first to arrange a marriage which would re-
store all their pristine festivity to the Thursday evenings.
Whilst Michaud was carrying on this conversation with
Laurent, as they slowly passed along the quays, Madame
Eaquin was holding forth to Therese in almost the same
terms. As her niece, pale and weakly as ever, was rising to
retire for the night, the old lady detained her a while. She\
THtiRfiSE RAQUI.N. 141
questioned her in gentle tones, she entreated her to speak
frankly, to confess the origin of the apathy which burdened
her. Then, as the only replies she could elicit were vague,
she spoke of the loneliness of widowhood, she arrived little
by little at the definite suggestion of a second marriage, and
ended by asking Thirese, in so many words, whether she
was not secretly wishing to marry again. Therese began
protesting, saying that she had not thought of such a thing,
and that she would continue faithful to Camille. Madame
Eaquin burst into tears. She pleaded against her own feel-
ings, she explained that grief cannot be eternal ; at last, in
response to the young woman's cry that she could never re-
place Camille, she abruptly named Laurent. Then she
expatiated with a flood of words upon the propriety, the
advantages of such a union ; she poured out her soul, she
repeated aloud the thoughts that had filled her mind all the
evening; with the naivete of selfishness, she drew the
picture of her final happiness between her two dear children.
Therese listened to her with bowed head, docile and resigned,
ready to gratify her least wish.
" I love Laurent as a brother," she said sadly, when her
aunt came to an end. " Since it is your desire, I will try to
love him as a husband. I want to make you happy. I had
hoped that you would have left me to weep in peace ; but I
will dry my tears, since your happiness is at stake.''
She kissed the old lady, who was surprised and alarmed
at having been the first to forget her son. As she went to
bed, Madame Eaquin sobbed bitterly, and accused herself of
being less courageous than. The'rese, of wishing for a marriage
out of selfishness which the young widow was about to ac-
cept in a spirit of self-sacrifice.
The next morning, Michaud and his old friend had a short
conversation in the Passage, outside the shop-door. They
reported to each other the result of the steps they had
142 TH^KfcSE EAQUIN.
taken, and agreed to bring matters to a speedy conclusion,
and, that very evening, to force the young people into an
That evening, at five o'clock, Michaud was already in the
shop when Laurent came in. As soon as the young man
had sat down, the ex-commissary of police whispered in his
ear, " She accepts."
Therese overheard this plain language ; she lost none of
her pallor, and kept her eyes impudently fixed upon Laurent.
The two lovers looked at each other for some moments, as if
in consultation. They both understood that they must ac-
cept the position without hesitation, and finish with it at a
stroke. Laurent rose, and, going up to Madame Eaquin, who
was doing all she could to keep back her tears, took her hand.
" Dear mother," he said to her with a smile, "I was talking
to Monsieur Michaud about your happiness last night. Your
children's only wish is to make you happy."
On hearing herself called "dear mother," the poor old
woman let flow her tears. With a quick movement she
took Therese's hand and placed it in Laurent's; but she
could not speak.
A shudder passed through the two lovers at the contact
of their flesh. They remained thus a moment with hands
clasped and burning in a nervous grip. The young man re-
sumed in hesitating accents :
" Therese, are you willing to join me in securing a gay
and peaceful existence for your aunt ] "
" Yes," faltered the young woman ; " we have a task to
Then Laurent turned towards Madame Raquin, and added,
with a pale face :
"When Camille fell into the water, he shouted to me,-
' Save my wife ! I entrust her to you 1 ' In marrying Therese, ■-
I believe that I am carrying out his last wishes."
THtiBJSSE RAQUEST. 143
Therese dropped Laurent's hand when she heard these
words. She had received, as it were, a blow in the chest.
Her lover's impudence crushed her. She looked at him
with dazed eyes, while Madame Eaquin, whose sobs almost
choked her, stammered : ,
'.'Yes, yes, my friend, marry her, make her happy, my
son will render you thanks from the bottom of his grave."
Laurent felt himself totter ; he leant on the back of a
chair. Michaud, who was also moved to tears, pushed him
towards Therese, exclaiming :
" Kiss each other, you two ! It will be your betrothal."
The young man was seized with a strange uneasiness when
he placed his lips on the widow's cheeks, and she stepped
back suddenly as though her lover's two kisses had burnt
her. It was the first caress she had received from this man
before witnesses ; all the blood rushed to her face, she felt
all red and hot, she who did not know what modesty
was, and who had never blushed throughout her shameful
After this crisis, the two murderers were able to breathe.
Their marriage was settled, they were at last within reach
of the goal they had so long had in view. Everything was
arranged that very evening. The following Thursday, the
wedding was announced to Grivet, to Olivier and his wife.
Michaud looked delighted as he told the news; he kept rub-
bing his hands, and repeating :
"It was I who thought of it, this match is my work.
You will see what a handsome couple they will make ! "
Suzanne went up to Therese, and kissed her in silence.
This poor creature, nerveless and sallow-faced as she was,
had taken a fancy to the sombre and stiff young widow.
She had a child-like affection for her, mingled with a sort of
respectful awe. Olivier congratulated the aunt and the
niece. Grivet risked a few spicy jocularities that were but
144 THERESE RAQUIN.
moderately appreciated. Altogether, the company seemed
charmed, delighted, and declared that everything was for
the best ; truth to tell, the company could already see itself
attacking the wedding breakfast.
Therese and Laurent maintained their attitude of studied
dignity. They manifested a tender and attentive friendship
for each other — nothing more. They seemed to be accom-
plishing an act of supreme self-sacrifice. Nothing in their
physiognomy betrayed the fears or the desires which agitated
them. Madame Eaquin watched them with pale smiles,
with a grateful and chastened kindliness.
There were some few formalities to carry out. Laurent
had to write to his father to obtain his consent. The old
Jeufosse peasant, who had almost forgotten that he had a
son in Paris, sent him a letter of four lines to tell him he
was at liberty to marry and be hanged, if he chose. He
gave him to understand that, having resolved never to give
him a sou, he left him his own master, and authorised him
to commit all the follies in the world. An authorisation
couched in such terms as these was remarkably irritating to
When Madame Eaquin had read this unnatural father's
epistle, she had a generous impulse which led her into a
very foolish act. She settled on her niece the forty odd
thousand francs that she possessed ; she completely stripped
herself for the young couple, entrusting herself to their
good-nature, wishing to owe the whole of her happiness to
them. Laurent brought nothing into the partnership ; he
even hinted that he might ultimately give up his clerkship,
and take to painting again. Besides, the future of the
little household was assured ; the income of the forty odd
thousand francs, together with the profits of the haber-
dashery business, was quite sufficient for three people to live
upon. They would have exacJy enough to be happy.
THERESE RAQUIN. 145
' The preparations for the wedding were hurried on. The
formalities were cut as short as possible. It seemed as if
everybody was in a hurry to thrust Laurent into Therese's
room. The longed-for day arrived at last.
That morning Laurent and Therese, in their separate rooms,
woke with the same feeling of deep joy : they both said to
themselves that their last night of terror was over. They
would no longer sleep alone, they would mutually defend
each other against the drowned man.
Therese looked about her, and smiled a strange smile, as
her eyes measured the width of her big bed. She got up,
and then dressed slowly, awaiting Suzanne, who was coming
to help her with her bridal toilet.
Laurent sat up in bed He remained in the same
position for some minutes, bidding farewell to the garret he
found so wretched. At last, then, he was about to leave
this hovel, and have a woman to himself. It was December.
He was shivering. He leapt to the floor, telling himself
that he would feel warm enough that night.
Madame Kaquin, knowing how hard up he was, had, a
week before, slipped into his hand a purse containing five
hundred francs — all her savings. The young man had
accepted it without a word, and had invested in a new out-
fit. Besides, the old lady's money had, in addition, enabled
him to purchase the usual presents for the bride.
The black trousers, the coat, as well as the white waist-
coat, the shirt and cravat of fine material, were spread out
on two chairs. Laurent soaped himself all over, perfumed
himself with a bottle of eau de Cologne, and then proceeded
to make a careful toilet. He wanted to look well. As he
was buttoning his collar — a high, stiff collar — he felt a sharp
THEKESE RAQUIN. 147
pain in his neck ; the collar stud slipped out of his fingers,
he got into a rage, the starched linen seemed to be cutting
into his flesh. He wanted to see what it was, and raised
his chin : then he perceived that the mark of Camille's bite
was all red ; the collar had slightly grazed the scar.
Laurent set his teeth, and turned pale ; the sight of that
stain which discoloured his neck at such a moment frightened
and irritated him. He crumpled up the collar, and chose
another, which he put on with infinite precautions. Then
he finished dressing. When he went down, his new clothes
kept him as stiff as a poker ; he dared not turn his head, so
imprisoned was his neck in the shiny linen. At each move-
ment he made, a fold of the linen pinched the wound that
the drowned man's teeth had scooped out in the flesh. And
still suffering these sharp, stinging pains, he got into the
carriage and went off to fetch Therese and take her to the
mayor's and the church.
On his way he picked up a clerk of the Orleans railway,
and old Michaud, who were to be his witnesses. When they
arrived at the shop everybody was ready : Grivet and
Olivier, Th^rese's witnesses, were there, and also Suzanne,
who kept looking at the bride like little girls look at the
dolls they have just dressed. And although Madame
Eaquin had entirely lost the use of her legs, she wished to
accompany her children everywhere. So she was hoisted
into a carriage, and they started off.
Everything went off well at the mayor's and the church.
Everybody noticed and approved the calm arid modest atti-
tude of the young couple. They uttered the sacramental
" Yes " with an emotion which affected even Grivet. They
were, as it were, in a dream. Whilst they were so quietly
sitting or kneeling at each other's side, wild thoughts arose
within them, despite themselves, and made them tremble.
When they got back into the carriage, it seemed to
148 THtiRESE EAQUHST.
them that they were greater strangers to each other than
It had been decided that the wedding feast should be
on the quiet, at a little restaurant on the heights of Belle-
ville. The Michauds and Grivet were alone invited. While
waiting for six o'clock, the wedding party took a drive along
the Boulevards ; then it stopped at the eating-house, where
a table, set for seven, stood ready for them in a private
room painted yellow, and stinking of dust and wine.
The banquet was but moderately lively. The happy
couple were grave and pensive. Ever since the morning
they had experienced strange sensations, for which they did
not even try to account. From the very first, the rapidity
with which the formalities and the ceremonies which united
them for ever had been accomplished had bewildered them.
Then the long drive on the Boulevards had, as it were, lulled
aud sent them to sleep ; it seemed to them that the drive
had lasted for whole months; besides, they had allowed
themselves to fall, without impatience, into the monotony of
the streets, looking at the shops and the passers-by with
eyes more dead than alive, overcome by a numbness of feel-
ing which dulled their nerves, and which they tried to shake
off with feeble attempts at bursts of laughter. As soon as
they had entered the restaurant, an overwhelming fatigue
seemed to weigh down their shoulders, an increasing torpor
seemed to overpower them.
Placed as they were at table, face to face, they smiled
with an air of constraint, and continually relapsed into a
deep reverie ; they ate, talked, and moved their limbs like
machines. In the midst of the lazy lassitude of their minds,
a similar category of fleeting thoughts kept returning
unceasingly. They were just married, and they were
unable to realise their change of state ; it was a cause of
profound astonishment to them. They could not help
THERESE RAQU1N. 149
thinking that they were separated by the same gulf as
before ; at times they found themselves wondering how they
could be able to bridge the gulf. It seemed to them that
things were as they were before the murder, when a
material obstacle was interposed between them. Then, all
on a sudden, they remembered that they would be sleeping
together that evening in a few hours time ; and then they
looked at each other with surprise, no longer understanding
why such a thing was permitted to them. They had no
comprehension of the fact of their wedlock ; it seemed to
them, on the contrary, as if they had just been violently
separated and cast far away from each other.
The guests, who were sillily giggling around them, having
wished to hear them address each other familiarly, in order
to set everybody at ease, they stammered and blushed, they
Jould never make up their minds to behave as lovers in
In this long interval their passion had worn itself out, all
She past had disappeared. They had lost their violent
sensual desires, they had even forgotten their joy on this
very morning, that profound joy they had felt at the
thought that they would never be afraid again. They were
simply wearied and flurried by what was taking place, the
events of the day revolved in their minds, incomprehensible
and monstrous. They sat there, silent, smiling, without ex-
pectation, without hope. A vaguely painful anxiety was
agitating them beneath their dejection.
Each time Laurent moved his neck he felt a burning
smart biting into his flesh ; his collar scraped and pinched
the place where Camille had bitten him. While the civil
ceremony was proceeding at the mayor's, while the religious
service was going on in the church, at every moment of this
long day, he had felt the teeth of his victim penetrating his
skin. He sometimes fancied the blood was trickling down
150 THliRftSE RAQUIN.
his chest and would stain his white waistcoat with its
Madame Eaquin felt privately grateful to the young
couple for their gravity ; a noisy mirth would have wounded
the poor mother; to her it seemed her son was present,
though unseen, giving Therese to Laurent's care. Grivet
had very different notions ; he thought the wedding very
dull, he vainly tried to enliven the guests, undeterred by
the -frowns of Michaud and Olivier, which nailed him to his
chair every time he wanted to rise to make some silly re-
mark. He did at last succeed, however, in getting on his
legs and proposing a toast.
" I drink to the bride's and bridegroom's children,'' said
he in a sprightly tone.
It was necessary to clink glasses. Ther&se and Laurent
had turned extremely pale on hearing Grivet's speech. They
had never contemplated the idea of having children. An.
icy shudder passed over them at the thought. They ner-
vously touched glasses, they looked at each other, surprised,
alarmed at being there, face to face.
The party rose from table early. The guests wished to
escort the bride and bridegroom to the nuptial chamber. It
was scarcely half past nine when the wedding party returned
to the shop in the Passage. The dealer in sham jewellery
was still in her cupboard, behind the box lined with blue
velvet. She raised her head inquisitively, looking at the
newly-married couple with a smile. They caught her glance
and were terrified. Perhaps this old woman had known of
their former meetings, when Laurent used to slip through
the narrow alley. Therese went almost at once to her
room, with Madame Eaquin and Suzanne. The men re-
mained in the dining-room, while the bride prepared to go
to bed. Laurent, depressed and spiritless, did not feel the
slightest impatience ; he listened politely to the coarse jokes
I %\\ t VS.. , ^
THE WEDDING FEAST.
THfiltESE RAQUIN. 151
of Michaud and Grivet, who were now no longer restrained
by the presence of the ladies. When Suzanne and Madame
Kaquin left the nuptial chamber, and the old lady told the
young man in a voice full of emotion, that his bride was
awaiting him, he started and stood for a moment terrified ;
then he shook hands feverishly all round, and entered
Th^rese's room, supporting himself against the door like a
Laurent carefully closed the door behind him, and stood
leaning against it for a moment, casting an anxious. and
embarrassed glance round the chamber.
A bright fire blazed on the hearth, throwing out yellow
gleams, which danced on the walls and ceiling. The room
was thus illuminated with a vivid and changeful light ; the
lamp, standing on a table, paled, before this glow. Madame
Raquin had prettily ornamented the room, dressing it in
white and filling it with perfume, as a fitting nest for fresh
young loves. She had trimmed the bed with lace, and filled
the vases on the mantelpiece with large bouquets of roses.
A gentle warmth, a pleasant fragrance hung about. The
air was peaceful and soothing, laden as it were with a
voluptuous torpor. In the midst of the quivering silence
came the little sharp noise of crackling wood on the hearth.
It seemed a happy solitude, an unknown nook, warm and
perfumed, shut off from all sounds of the outer world — one
of those nests fitted and arranged to gratify the sensuality
of passion and its need of mystery.
Therese was seated in a low chair to the right of the
chimney-piece. Resting her chin in her hand, she was
gazing intently at the leaping flames. She did not turn her
head at Laurent's entrance. Clothed in a petticoat and a
short night-dress trimmed with lace, she looked ghastly
white in the bright firelight. Her nightdress, loose at the
neck, was slipping down, disclosing a bit of pink shoulder,
half hidden by a tress of raven hair.
THtiRfcSE RAQUIN. 153
Laurent took a few steps without speaking. He removed
his coat and waistcoat. When he was in his shirt-sleeves, he
again looked at Therese, who had not moved. He seemed
to hesitate. Then he perceived the bit of shoulder, and he
bent down, trembling, to press his lips on this morsel of bare
skin. The young woman withdrew her shoulder by turning
abruptly round. She fixed oa Laurent so strange a look of
fright and repugnance that he stepped back, troubled and ill
at ease, as though himself seized with terror and disgust.
Laurent sat down opposite Therese, on the other side of
the fireplace. They remained thus silent, motionless, for
five long minutes. Ever and anon the wood emitted jets of
lurid flame, casting blood-red reflections upon the murderers'
It was nearly two years since the lovers had found them-
selves in a room alone together, unrestrained by other eyes.
They had had no assignation since the day when Therese
had gone to the Rue Saint- Victor, bringing Laurent the
thought of murder in her wake. A feeling of prudence had
weaned their carnal desires. They had scarce permitted
themselves, at distant intervals, a pressure of the hand, a
stolen kiss. After Camille's murder, when fresh desires were
consuming them, they had controlled themselves, awaiting
the wedding night, anticipating unbridled pleasure when
they could enjoy it with impunity. And the wedding night
had come at last, and they sat face to face, anxious, seized
with a sudden uneasiness. They had but to stretch out
their arms to clasp each other in a passionate embrace,
and their arms drooped, as if already wearied and satiated
with love. The despondency oppressing them all the day
was crushing them more and more. They gazed at each
other without desire, with a timid embarrassment, mutually
pained at this coldness and silence. Their burning dreams
had culminated in a strange reality ; it was enough that
154 THERESE RAQUIN.
they had succeeded in getting rid of Camille, and becoming
man and wife; it was enough that Laurent's lips had touched
Therese's shoulder, for their licentious flame to be quenched
in fear and loathing.
Despairingly each sought to kindle some lingering spark
of that passion which erst consumed them. They seemed
without muscles and without nerves. Their embarrassment,
their disquietude increased ; they felt ashamed at remaining
thus silent and sad. Opposite one another, they longed for
the energy to clasp each other madly, to avoid seeming
despicable in their own eyes. What ! they were now
united, they had destroyed a life, and acted an atrocious
comedy, in order to be able to impudently wallow in con-
tinual pleasure, and there they remained on either side of a
fireplace, rigid, exhausted, troubled in mind, dead in body.
Such a denouement seemed to them a cruel, horrible
mockery. Then Laurent tried to speak of love, to evoke
the memory of other days, appealing to his imagination to
revive his tenderness.
" Therese," said he, leaning towards the young woman,
" do you remember our afternoons in this room? I used to
come in by that door. To-day I came in by this one. We
are free ; we can love each other in peace."
He spoke gently, in a hesitating voice. The young
woman, squatting on the low chair, continued gazing at the
flame, dreamily, without listening. Laurent continued :
" Do you remember ? I had a dream : I longed to pass
a whole night with you, to fall asleep in your arms, and
awake beneath your kisses in the morning. I am going to
realise that dream."
Therese made a movement as though of surprise at hear-
ing a voice murmuring in her ears. She turned towards Lau-
rent, whose face at the moment was lit up with a ruddy hue
by the fire. She looked at this blood-red face and shuddered.
gii iB l iiiit
1111 llr'i 1 ' ??Sim
I i 1 ! 1
LAURENT AND THJ2RESE HAUNTED BY CAMILLE'S SPECTRE ON
THEIR -WEDDING NIGHT. p. 165.
THtiRiJSE RAQUIN. 155
The young man resumed, more troubled, more anxious :
" We have succeeded, Therese, we have overcome every
obstacle, and we now belong to each other. The future is
ours, is it not 1 — a future of tranquil happiness, of satisfied
love. Camille is no longer in the way."
Laurent stopped, his throat parched, choking, unable to
continue. At the mention of Camille, Therese had felt a
shock which penetrated her vitals. The two murderers
looked at each other, stupefied, pale, trembling. The yellow
light from the grate was still dancing on the walls and ceil-
ing ; the warm perfume of the roses hung about ; while the
little sharp noise of crackling wood was heard in the silence.
The flood-gates of memory were opened. Camille's spectre
came and sat between the bride and bridegroom, in front of
■ the blazing fire. Therese and Laurent felt the cold damp
breath of the drowned man in the warm air they breathed ;
they told themselves a corpse was there between them, and
they looked at one another without daring to move. Then
all the terrible story of their crime unrolled itself in their
memory. The name of their victim sufficed to recall the
past, to force them to- live over again the anguish of the
murder. They did not open their lips, they gazed into
each other's eyes, and they had simultaneously the same
vision, they both experienced the agony of the same cruel
story. This interchange of terror-stricken glances, this
mute recital which they were about to give each other of
the bloody deed, caused them an acute, intolerable dread.
The tension of their nerves threatened an outburst ; they
might scream, or even fight. To drive away these memories,
Laurent, with a violent effort, tore himself from the terrify-
ing influence of Therese's fixed gaze ; he walked up and
down the room ; he took off his boots and put on his
slippers ; then he returned to his seat in the chimney corner,
and tried to converse on indifferent topics.
156 THtfRftSE EAQUIN.
Therese understood his desire. She forced herself to reply
to his questions. They spoke of the weather, and of other
trite subjects. Laurent declared the room was hot, Therese
replied that there was a draught under the little door
opening on the staircase, and they turned towards the little
door with a sudden shiver. The young man hastened to
speak of the roses, the fire, everything he could see ; the
bride made an effort, and found some monosyllables, with
which she tried to keep up the conversation. They had
moved farther apart; they tried to look unconcerned, to
forget their own identity, and to treat each other like
strangers casually thrown together.
But in spite of themselves, by a strange phenomenon,
while pronouncing empty words, they mutually guessed the
thoughts that each was trying to conceal behind common-
place remarks. These thoughts ran persistently on Camille.
With their eyes they continued the story of the past ; then-
looks were holding a conversation, mute and sustained,
beneath that other conversation kept up aloud, and which
dragged on at random. The words they uttered now and
again were devoid of meaning, disconnected, and contradic-
tory ; their whole being was employed in the silent
interchange of their horrible memories. When Laurent
spoke of the roses or of the fire, Therese understood per-
fectly well that he was reminding her of the struggle in the
boat, of Camille's tragic end ; and, when Therese replied
with yes or no to some trivial question, Laurent understood
her to mean that she either remembered or forgot some
detail connected with the crime. They thus conversed,
heart to heart, without need of words, while talking of other
things. Quite unconscious, moreover, of what their tongues
said, they followed each other's secret thoughts as fast as
they came into their heads ; they could have abruptly con-
tinued this exchange of reminiscences aloud, without ceasing
THfiEfiSE KAQUIST. 157
to understand each other. This kind of divination, this
pertinacity of their memory in unceasingly presenting to
their mental gaze the image of their victim, had for them a
weird fascination ; they could see they understood each
other, and that if they were not silent, the words would
rush unbidden from their lips, naming the drowned man,
describing the murder. Then they forced themselves to
silence, and the conversation dropped.
And yet, in the oppressive stillness that followed, these
two murderers continued talking mutely of Camille. They
felt as though their gaze mutually pierced their flesh,
inserting in them clear and cutting words. At times they
fancied they heard each other speaking aloud ; their senses
deceived them, their sight seemed to become a strange and
delicate sense of hearing ; they so clearly read their thoughts
in their faces, that these thoughts assumed a strange and
piercing sound which convulsed their frames. They could
not have understood each other more plainly had they cried
aloud in heartrending tones : " We have killed Camille, and
his corpse is there stretched out between us, freezing our
limbs." And still this exchange of terrible reminiscences
continued, more visible, more audible, in the calm, moist
atmosphere of the room.
Laurent and Th^rese had begun the silent narrative from
the day of their first meeting in the shop. Then the
memories had crowded on in order ; they had detailed to
each other the hours of voluptuousness, the moments of
hesitation and anger, the awful instant of the murder. It
was at this point that they had closed their lips, ceasing the
trivial talk for fear of suddenly naming Camille without
wishing to. And their thoughts, rushing on, had next
hurried them to the agony of dread suspense following the
crime. They thus arrived mentally at the spectacle of the
corpse of the drowned man exposed on a slab at the Morgue.
158 THERESE RAQUIN.
Laurent told Therese all his horror with a look, and Therese,
losing her self-control, forced by an iron hand to open her
lips, abruptly continued the conversation aloud :
" You saw him at the Morgue 1 " asked she of Laurent,
without naming Camille.
Laurent seemed waiting for this question. He had been
reading it for a minute past on the young woman's blanched
" Yes," replied he, in hoarse accents.
The murderers shuddered. They drew nearer the fire;
they spread out their hands to the flame, as though an icy
breath had suddenly passed through the warm room. They
remained silent a moment, cowering, huddled up. Then
Therese went on in hollow tones :
" Did he appear to have suffered much ? "
Laurent could not reply. He made a gesture of fright, as
if to drive away some gruesome vision. He arose, went to-
wards the bed, and returned violently, with open arms,
" Kiss me," he said, stretching his neck towards her.
Therese had risen, pale and white in her night-dress ; she
leant slightly back, one elbow resting on the marble mantel-
shelf. She looked at Laurent's neck. On the white skin
she had just noticed a pink spot. The surging blood,
mounting through his veins, swelled this mark, which grew
" Kiss me, kiss me,'' repeated Laurent, his face and neck
in a flame.
The young woman held her head further back, to avoid a
kiss, and, pressing the tip of her finger on the mark left by
Camille's bite, she asked her husband :
" What's that you've got there ? I never noticed you had
that wound before.''
Laurent felt as if Therese's finger was piercing his throat.
THtiKfcSE RAQUIN. 159
At the touch of this finger, he shrank back quickly, with a
cry of pain.
" That," stammered he, " that—"
He hesitated, but he could not lie ; he told the truth in
spite of himself.
" You know, it's where Camille bit me in the boat. It's
nothing, it's already healed. Kiss me, kiss me ! "
And the wretch held his burning neck towards her. He
wanted Therese to kiss him on the scar, expecting that the
kiss of this woman would soothe the thousand stings that
were lacerating his flesh. He approached her with his chin
raised and his neck towards her. Therese, almost reclining
on the chimney-piece, made a gesture of supreme disgust,
and cried out beseechingly :
" Oh ! no, not there ! There is blood on it."
She sank down again on the low chair, shuddering, and
burying her face in her hands.
Laurent seemed stunned. He lowered his chin and looked
vaguely at Therese. Then, suddenly, with the grasp of a
wild beast, he took her head in his great hands, and, by
main force, pressed her lips on his neck on the mark left by
Camille's bite. For a brief space he kept, he crushed, that
woman's head against his skin. Therese had abandoned
herself, uttering plaintive cries, feeling nearly suffocated on
Laurent's neck. When she had disengaged herself from his
hands, she wiped her mouth, violently, and spat in the fire.
She had not uttered a word.
Laurent, ashamed of his brutality, began pacing the room
slowly, from the bed to the window. " It was only the
suffering, the horrible smarting which had made him exact
a kiss from Therese, and, when her cold lips had touched the
burning scar, he had suffered still more. This kiss, extorted
by violence, had quite shaken him. So painful had
been the shock, that nothing would have induced him to
160 THERESE raquin.
receive a second. And he looked at the woman with whom
he was to live, as she sat shivering over the fire, with her
back towards him ; he told himself that he no longer loved
this woman and that she no longer loved him. For nearly
an hour Therese remained cowering there, while Laurent
walked up and down in silence. Both acknowledged to
themselves in dismay that their passion was extinct, that in
killing Camille, they had killed their own desires. The
fire was burning slowly out ; a bright red glow covered the
ashes. Gradually the heat of the room had become
suffocating ; the flowers were fading, filling the heavy air
with their sickly perfume.
Suddenly Laurent had a hallucination. As he was turn-
ing round from the window to the bed, he saw Camille in a
dark corner, between the chimney-piece and the glass door
of the wardrobe. His victim's face was of a greenish hue
and convulsed such as he had seen it on a slab at the Morgue.
He stood rooted to the spot, fainting, supporting himself
against the furniture. At the stifled cry he uttered, Therese
" There, there," said Laurent, in a terrified voice.
With outstretched arm he pointed to the dark corner in
which he perceived Camille's ill-favoured face. Therese, also
stricken with fear, came and pressed up against him.
"It is his portrait," she whispered, as if her late husband's
painted face could hear her.
" His portrait," repeated Laurent, his hair rising on end.
" Yes, you know, the portrait you painted. My aunt was
to have had it in her room from to-day. She must have for-
gotten to remove it.''
" Of course, it is only his portrait."
The murderer could scarcely recognise the painting. In his
confusion he forgot that he himself had drawn those hard
features, represented in dirty tints which terrified him.
LAURENT AND THEEESE. TERRIFIED AT THE SIGHT OF CAMII-LE'S
PORTRAIT. p. 160.
THfeRiSE RAQUIN. 161
Fright made him see the portrait as it really was, mean, mis-
shapen, discoloured, showing on a dark ground the distorted
face of a corpse. His work surprised and horrified him by
its atrocious ugliness ; there were especially the two white
eyes, floating in soft, yellowish orbits, which reminded him
forcibly of the decomposed eyes of the drowned man at the
Morgue. He stood gasping, for a few moments, thinking
that Therese had told a lie to reassure him. Then, recog-
nising the frame, he grew more calm.
"Go and take it down,'' said he in low tones to the young
" Oh ! no, I'm afraid," replied the latter, with a shudder.
Laurent began to tremble again. The frame at times
seemed to disappear, and all he saw were the two white eyes,
which gazed fixedly at him.
" I entreat you," he resumed, in supplicating accents to
his companion, " go and take it down."
" Then we'll turn it against the wall, and we shall cease
to be frightened."
" No, I really cannot."
The assassin, cowardly and humble, pushed the young
woman towards the canvas, hiding himself behind her to
avoid the drowned man's gaze. She slipped from him, and
he tried to put a bold face on the matter ; he approached
the picture, raising his hand, seeking the nail. But the
portrait had so crushing, so ignoble, so prolonged a look that
Laurent, after trying to stare it out of countenance, was
vanquished, and drew back, utterly dejected, murmuring :
" No, you are right, Therese, we cannot. Your aunt will
remove it to-morrow.''
He resumed his walk to and fro, bowing his head, feeling
that the portrait was watching him, following him with ita
eyes. In spite of himself, he glanced from time to time in
162 THEftfcSE RAQUltf.
the direction of the canvas ; ever, in the deep shadow,
gleamed the dead, lack-lustre orbs of the drowned man.
The notion that Camille was there, in a corner, watchiug
him, assisting at his wedding night, examining him and
Therese, drove Laurent nearly wild with terror and despair.
Then too a circumstance, which in another would have
caused a smile, sent him completely off his head. As he
was passing the fire-place, he heard a sort of scratching
noise. He turned pale, fancying this sound came from the
portrait, and that Camille was coming out of the frame.
But he found that the noise came from the little door
opening on to the staircase. He looked at Therese who
was again giving way to fear.
" There is someone on the stairs," he murmured. " Who
can have come that way 1 "
The young woman made no reply. They both thought
of the drowned man, an icy cold sweat moistened their
brows. They fled to the farthest corner of the room, ex-
pecting to see the door burst open, and the corpse of
Camille fall on the floor. The noise continuing sharper,
and more irregular, they thought their victim was tearing
at the wood with his nails, to force an entrance. For
nearly five minutes they durst not stir. Then they heard
a distinct mewing. Laurent drew near and recognised
Madame Eaquiu's tabby cat, who had been accidentally
shut in the room, and who was trying to escape by shaking
the little door with his claws. Francois was afraid of
Laurent ; with one spring he leaped on to a chair ; bristling
his coat and stiffening his limbs, he looked at his new
master with a hard cruel gaze. The young man hated all
cats, but Francois he was almost afraid of. In his present
state of feverish alarm he thought the cat was going to
spring at his face to avenge Camille. This animal probably
knew all : there must be thoughts in those round eyes, so
THfiKJ&SE RAQUIN. 163
strangely dilated. Laurent lowered his eyelids before this
dumb animal's fixed gaze. Just as he was on the point of
kicking Francois, Therese said :
"Do not hurt him."
This request made a strange impression upon Laurent. An
absurd idea filled his brain.
" Camille has entered into the body of that cat," he
thought. " I must kill the beast. He looks like a human
He did not kick Frangois, dreading to hear the animal
address him with Camille's voice. Then he recalled
Th6rese's jokes, in the days of their voluptuous meetings,
when the cat was a witness of their caresses. He said to
himself that this creature knew too much and that he ought
to pitch him out of the window. But he had not the
courage to accomplish his design. Frangois maintained a
hostile attitude ; showing his claws, and arching his back in
sullen irritation, he followed with superb tranquillity his
enemy's slightest movement.
Laurent felt uneasy beneath the gaze of those metallic
eyes ; he hastened to open the dining-room door, and the
cat fled uttering a shrill mew.
Therese had resumed her seat in front of the expiring
fire. Laurent recommenced his walk from the bed to the
window. Thus they awaited the morning. Neither thought
of going to bed ; heart and flesh were equally numbed.
One single longing possessed them, the longing to escape
from this room which was stifling them. They felt really
uncomfortable at being shut up together, at breathing the
same air ; they would have preferred a third person to break
up their tlte-a-tete, to extricate them from the cruel em-
barrassment of finding themselves there with nothing to say,
unable to resuscitate their passion. Their long intervals of
silence tortured them; these intervals were full of bitter
164 THlilRESE RAQUIN.
and despairing complaints, of mute reproaches, which they
heard distinctly in the stillness of the night.
Morning came at last, pale and murky, bringing a penetrat-
ing chill in its train.
As soon as the early light filled the room, Laurent who
was shivering grew more calm. He looked straight at
Camille's portrait, and saw it as it really was, crude and
puerile ; he unhooked it, and, shrugging his shoulders, called
himself a fool. The'rfese had risen and was rumpling the
bed-clothes to deceive her aunt, and make her think they
had passed a happy night.
" I hope," said Laurent roughly, " that we shall sleep
properly to-night. This childishness cannot go on."
Therese looked at him gravely and thoughtfully.
" You understand," he added, " I did not marry to pass
sleepless nights. We have behaved like children. It was
you who upset me with your funereal ways. To-night you
must try to be cheerful and not to frighten me."
He gave a forced laugh without knowing why.
" I will try," replied the young woman in a hollow voice.
Such was Th£rese's and Laurent's wedding night.
The nights following were still more cruel. The murderers
had wished to be two at night, to defend themselves against
the drowned man, and, strange to tell, directly they found
themselves together, they trembled more than ever. The
mere interchange of a look, of a word, sufficed to exasperate
them, to irritate their nerves in the highest degree, to bring
on terrible paroxysms of suffering and terror. The simplest
conversation, the most trivial t6te-a-tete between them was
the signal for a species of delirium.
Therese's hard nervous nature had aoted strangely on
Laurent's dull, sanguine temperament. In the days of
their passionate love this great contrast between the man
and the woman had made them a couple powerfully united,
establishing a sort of equilibrium between them, by com-
pleting, so to speak, their organism. The lover brought his
blood, his mistress her nerves, and they lived in each other,
mutually yearning for the caresses which regulated the
mechanism of their being. But this machinery was now out
of gear ; Therese's over-excited nerves were in the ascendant.
Laurent suddenly found himself a prey to a state of nervous
erethism; under the young woman's ardent influence, his
temperament had gradually become that of a girl stricken
with an acute neurosis. It would be curious to study the
changes which are sometimes produced in certain organiza-
tions, resulting from definite circumstances, These changes
166 TH^EfcSE RAQUIN.
which start from the flesh, soon communicate themselves to
the brain, and from thence to the entire being.
Before meeting Therese, Laurent had the heavy nature,
the quiet prudence, the sanguine temperament, of a son
of the soil. He ate, drank, and slept as an animal. At
all hotirs, under all circumstances, he breathed heavily
and plentifully, satisfied with himself, and slightly stulti-
fied by his superabundant flesh. He had scarcely felt
at times slight titillations in his thick frame. And it
was these titillations that Therese had developed into
horrible shocks. She had set in motion in this large, fat,
and sluggish body, a nervous system of extraordinary sensi-
bility. Laurent, who previously had enjoyed life more
through his blood than his nerves, grewless coarse in his
feelings. His mistress's first kisses suddenly revealed to
him a new existence, poignant and nervous. This existence
increased his enjoyments tenfold, gave so acute a character
to his pleasures that he seemed at first to have nearly lost
his senses ; he abandoned himself utterly to this acme of
intoxication, which his blood had never procured him.
Then a strange evolution took place within him ; his nerves
developed, dominated the sanguine element, and this fact
alone modified his nature. He lost his phlegmatic heaviness ;
he no longer led a sleepy life. The day came when the
blood and the nerves were evenly balanced; that was a
moment of profound enjoyment and perfect existence. Soon
the nerves gained the mastery, and he suffered the tortures
which rack disordered bodies and minds.
Thus it was that Laurent had cowered at a shadowy
corner, like a timid child. The trembling, haggard creature,
the new being which had evolved itself in him from the
thick-skinned, heavy peasant, suffered the fears and anxieties
of nervous temperaments. All the late events — TheVese's
fierce caresses, the excitement of the murder, the frightful
TH^KfcSE RAQUIN. 167
period of waiting — had nearly driven him mad by over-
exciting his senses, and by abrupt and repeated strains upon
his nerves. The sleeplessness was a fatal climax, bringing
hallucination in its train. From that time Laurent had led
an intolerable life, struggling against an eternal terror.
His remorse was purely physical. His body, his irritated
nerves and trembling flesh were alone in fear of the drowned
man. His conscience was in nowise concerned with his
terrors ; he did not in the least regret having killed Camille.
In his calm moments, when the spectre was not haunting
him, he would have committed the murder over again, if he
had thought his interest required him to do so. In the day-
time he laughed at his fears ; he resolved to be brave ;
he rebuked Therese, whom he accused of alarming him.
According to his account, it was Therese who trembled ; it
was Therese alone who brought about appalling scenes, of
an evening, in their room. And as soon as night came, as
soon as he was shut in with his wife, a cold sweat came out
upon his skin, childish fears pursued him. He thus suffered
periodical crises, nervous attacks which returned every even-
ing, which upset his senses by showing him the green, putrid
face of his victim. They were like severe attacks of serious
illness, a sort of hysteria of murder. An illness, a nervous
affection was really the only term to apply to these terrors
of Laurent. His face became convulsed, his limbs grew
stiff. One could see his nerves becoming knotted. His
body suffered acutely, his soul was undisturbed. The
wretch felt no twinge of repentance. Therese's passion had
filled him with a horrible agony, and that was all.
Therese herself was also a prey to violent agitation. But
in her case the original temperament had merely become
unnaturally intensified. Ever since she was ten years old,
this woman had been subject to nervous disorders, partly
attributable to the way she had been reared in the tepid,
1S8 therese raqutnt.
nauseous air of the room in which little Camille hac
struggled to live. Meanwhile storms were accumulating ii
her — powerful fluids which were bound to burst fortl
eventually in veritable tempests. Laurent had been for hei
what she had been for Laurent — a sort of brutal shock
From the first embrace of her lover, her hard, yet voluptuous
temperament had developed with a savage energy. Sh(
had then only lived for her passion. Abandoning hersel:
more and more to the fevers which consumed her, she fel
at last into a kind of sickly stupor. Events overwhelmed
her ; everything drove her to madness. In her terror sh<
showed her woman's nature ; she felt a vague remorse
an unavowed regret ; she experienced a longing to throw
herself on her knees and implore pardon of Camille's spirit
swearing to appease him by repentance. Perhaps Laurent
perceived this cowardice in Therese. When they wen
agitated by a mutual terror, he abused her and treated hei
They could not go to bed those first nights. They watchec
for the dawn of day, sitting by the fire, or walking up anc
down, like on the wedding night. The idea of lying sidebj
side on the bed filled them with a sort of alarm and repug
nance. By tacit consent they avoided caresses, not ever
looking at the bed which Therese rumpled in the morning
When overtaken by fatigue, they slept for an hour or tw<
in easy-chairs, to awake with a start at the fatal denoue
ment of some nightmare. At daylight, with stifFenei, tire(
limbs and faces mottled with livid blotches, all shivering
with cold and discomfort, they gazed stupidly at one another
astonished to find themselves there, full of strange embarrass
ment at the situation, of shame at the disclosure of thei:
mutual terror and disgust.
They struggled, moreover, as hard as they could, agains
sleep. They sat at either side of the fire-place and chattec
THERESE EAQUIN. 169
of a thousand trifles, carefully avoiding a lull in the conver-
sation. There was a wide space between them, opposite the
hearth. When they turned their heads, they imagined that
Camille had brought a chair over and occupied this space,
warming his feet in a lugubriously jeering manner. This
vision, which had come to them on their wedding night, re-
turned every night afterwards. This corpse, which assisted,
silent and scornful, at their vigils, this frightfully disfigured
body, which seemed to be ever there, plunged them in a
continual alarm. They durst not stir ; they blinded them-
selves staring at the burning flames, and when involuntarily
they cast a timid glance aside, their eyes, irritated by the
glowing coal, created the vision and gave it lurid reflections.
Laurent would not, at last, sit down, though concealing
the cause of his whim from Therese. She understood per-
fectly that Laurent saw Camille as she did ; she declared in
her turn that the heat was stifling, that she would feel
better some distance from the fire. She moved her arm-
chair to the foot of the bed, and remained there exhausted,
while her husband resumed his pacing up and down the
room. At times he would open the window, and let the cold
January nights fill the room with their icy breath. This
calmed his fever.
For a week, the newly wedded pair thus passed the entire
nights. They were worn out ; they dozed a little during the
day — Therese behind the counter in the shop, Laurent at his
office. At night they were a prey to anguish and terror.
And the strangest thing of all was the attitude they main-
tained towards each other. They uttered not one word of
love ; they pretended to have forgotten the past ; they
seemed to accept, to tolerate each other, as invalids feeling
a secret pity for their common sufferings. They each hoped
to conceal their disgust and their fears, and neither of them
seemed aware of the strangeness of the nights they passed
170 THERESE RAQUIN.
together, and which should have mutually enlightened them
on the true state of their feelings. Sitting up all night,
conversing at long intervals, starting at the slightest sound,
they seemed to believe their conduct was like that of all
young couples in their honeymoon. It was the clumsy
hypocrisy of two fools.
But their weariness became at length so overpowering
that they made up their minds one night to lie down on the
bed. They did not undress ; they threw themselves on the
outside of the counterpane, fearing lest their flesh should
come in contact. They seemed to dread some painful shock
at the least touch. After sleeping an unquiet sleep in this
way for two nights, they ventured to undress and to slip
between the sheets. But they kept at either edge of the
bed; they took precautions not to touch each other.
Therese got in first, and lay close to the wall. Laurent
waited until she was settled ; then he ventured to stretch
his limbs at the outer side. This left a wide space between
them. There reposed the corpse of the drowned man.
When the two murderers were stretched beneath the same
sheet, and had closed their eyes, they seemed to feel their
victim's dripping body in the middle of the bed, freezing
their flesh. It was like some ghastly obstacle separating
them. They were in a fever, a delirium, and this obstacle
became to them a real thing ; they touched the body ; they
saw it laid out, like a piece of green and putrid flesh ; they
inhaled the offensive odour of this mass of human corrup-
tion. The illusion so overpowered them that their sensations
became intolerably acute. The presence of this loathsome
bed-fellow held them immovable, silent, devoured with
anguish. Laurent sometimes thought of violently taking
Th^rese in his arms ; but he was too frightened to move ;
he told himself he could not stretch out his hand without
catching hold of Camille's dank flesh. Then he imagined
THERESE RAQUEST. 171
the corpse came and lay between them to prevent their
gliding into each other's arms. He ended by understanding
that the drowned man was jealous.
Sometimes, however, they tried to exchange a timid kiss
to see what would happen. The young man made fun of his
wife and ordered her to embrace him. But their lips were
so cold, that death seemed to have stepped in between their
mouths. They felt sick; Therese shuddered with horror,
and Laurent, who could hear her teeth chattering, got out
of temper with her.
" Why are you trembling 1 " he would ask. " Are you
afraid of Camille 1 Nonsense, by this time there is no flesh
left even on the poor fellow's bones."
They avoided telling each other the cause of their shiver-
ing fits. When in a vision the leaden-hued face of their
victim appeared before one of them, he closed his eyes, shut-
ting himself up in his terror, not daring to tell the other,
for fear of causing a still more terrible climax. When
Laurent, driven to extremity, in a fit of despair, accused
Therese of being afraid of Camille, this name, uttered aloud,
redoubled his agony. The murderer raved in delirium.
"Yes, yes,'' he would stammer, addressing the young
woman, " you are afraid of Camille. I can see it well
enough ! You are a fool, you have not a spark of courage.
Go and sleep in peace ! Do you suppose your first husband
is going to drag you off by your feet, because I'm in bed
This idea, this supposition that the drowned man could
come and drag them by their feet made Laurent's hair
stand on end. He continued, however, with more
" I must take you some night to the cemetery. We will
open Camille's coffin, and you shall see the mass of corrup-
tion ! Then you wiil get over your fear perhaps. Non-
172 THfiBJ&SE RAQUIN.
sense, what does he know of our having thrown him into
Therese, her head buried in the sheets, uttered stifled
" We drowned him to get rid of him," continued her
husband. "We would do it again, eh.1 Then don't play
the fool like that. Take courage. It is foolish to spoil our
happiness. You see, my dear, when we die, we shall not be
a bit better or worse off in the ground, because we chucked
an idiot into the Seine, and we shall have had liberty to
enjoy our love, which is an advantage. Come, kiss me."
The young woman, icy cold and distracted, kissed him,
while he was shivering all over as she was.
For over a fortnight Laurent tried to think how he could
kill Oamille over again. He had drowned him, and yet he
was not dead enough, for he came and lay every night in
Th^reso's bed. When the murderers thought to have got
rid of him, and to be able to give themselves up in peace to
the enjoyment of their passion, their victim appeared again
to freeze their bridal bed. Therese was no widow, and
Laurent found himself married to a woman who had already
a drowned man for a husband.
LAtrBBNT was gradually driven to the brink of madness.
He resolved to drive Camille from his bed. He had begun
by lying down without undressing, then he had avoided
even touching TheYese's skin. Now, enraged, desperate,
he wished at last to take his wife to his bosom, and to crush
her in his arms, rather than leave her to his victim's ghost.
It was a superb revolt of brutish passion.
In short, the hope that Therese's kisses would cure his
sleeplessness had alone brought him to her bedchamber.
When he had found himself in this room as master, his
flesh, rent by still more atrocious shocks, had no longer
even thought of attempting the cure. And during three
weeks he remained as though crushed, forgetting he had
done all to possess Therese and unable to touch her without
adding to his sufferings, now that she was all his own.
The excess of his anguish roused him from this lethargy.
In the first moment of stupor, in the strange dejection of
the wedding night, he had somehow overlooked the reasons
which had urged him to bring about the marriage. But
from behind the reiterated shocks of his bad dreams, a dull
irritation came over him conquering his cowardice and
restoring his memory. He recollected he had married in
order to chase away his nightmare with his wife pressed to
his breast. So one night, he suddenly took Therese in his
arms, and drew her violently to him, at the risk of passing
over the body of the drowned man.
The young woman was also at the end of her patience ;
174 THERESE EAQUIN.
she would have thrown herself into the flames if she could
have believed the fire would purge her flesh and deliver her
from her woes. She returned Laurent his embraces, re-
solved to be burnt by this man's caresses, or to find in them
And they were locked in a horrible embrace. Agony and
terror replaced sensual desire. When their limbs touched
each other, they felt as if they had fallen on burning coals.
They uttered a cry and clung yet closer together, so as to
leave no room between their bodies for the drowned man.
And still they felt bits of Camille's flesh loathsomely crushed
between them, freezing their skin in places while the rest of
their bodies was on fire.
Their embraces were frightfully cruel. Therese sought
with her lips the mark of Camille's bite on Laurent's stiff
and swollen neck, and she passionately fixed her mouth
upon it. The festering sore was there; once that wound
were healed, the murderers might sleep in peace. The
woman understood this, she tried to cauterise the place with
the heat of her caresses. But she only burnt* her lips, and
Laurent pushed her violently from him with a moan of pain ;
it seemed to him that a red-hot iron was being applied to his
neck. Therese, beside herself, returned to him, wishing
again to kiss the scar ; she experienced a keen voluptuous-
ness in placing her mouth on that skin wherein Camille had
buried his teeth. At one moment she even thought of biting
her husband at that spot, of tearing out a large piece of
flesh, of making a new and deeper wound, which should
carry away all marks of the old one. And she felt she
would not then turn pale at the sight of the mark of her
own teeth. But Laurent defended his neck from her kisses ;
he felt it smarting unbearably, he pushed her away each
time she thrust out her lips. They struggled thus, disputing,
quarrelling amid the horror of their caresses.
THERESE RAQUIN. 175
They felt well enough they were but increasing their
sufferings. In vain did they clasp each other in terrible
embraces, they cried out with pain, they burnt and bruised
each other, but they could not soothe their terrified nerves.
Each embrace only increased the acuteness of their disgust.
Whilst they were exchanging these frightful kisses, they
were a prey to ghastly hallucinations ; they imagined the
drowned man was pulling their feet, and violently shaking
They let go of each other a moment, filled with disgust
and an invincible nervous antipathy. But they would not
be vanquished ; they once more clasped each other in a new
embrace, and were yet again forced to loosen their hold by
what seemed like red-hot darts piercing their limbs. Many
times they tried thus to conquer their disgust, and to forget
everything by wearying, by shattering, their nerves. And
each time their nerves grew more irritated and strained,
causing them such exasperation that they must have died of
collapse had they continued in each pther's arms. This
struggle with their own bodies had excited them to the point
of fury ; they grew obstinate, they resolved to have their
own way. At length a still sharper attack shattered them ;
they received a shock of unheard-of violence, and they
believed it was all over with them.
Flung apart to the two edges of the bed, scorched and
bruised, they began to sob.
And, mingling with their sobs, they seemed to hear the
jeering laugh of the drowned man, who again slipped in
under the sheet in triumph. They had been poweiless to
chase him from the bed ; they were vanquished. Camille
stretched himself gently between them, while Laurent wept
at his powerlessness, and ThenSse trembled to think the
corpse might take a fancy to profit by his victory and clasp
her in his turn in his putrid arms as her legitimate lord
176 THERESE RAQUIN.
They had tried a supreme remedy; they felt that, in
presence of their defeat, they would never again dare to
exchange the slightest caress. The sensual passion which
they had tried to force in order to quell their terrors, had
just plunged them into still deeper dread. Feeling the icy
presence of this corpse which would now separate them for-
ever, they wept tears of blood, asking themselves in their
anguish what would become of them.
The Thursday evenings were gaily resumed, the day after
the wedding, as old Miohaud had hoped, when he worked so
hard to bring about the marriage of Therese and Laurent.
These gatherings seemed doomed at the time of Camille's
death. The guests only ventured to present themselves
timidly in the house of mourning ; each week they trembled
to receive a final dismissal. Michaud and Grivet were such
creatures of habit that they thought of the possibility of
Madame Raquin's door being closed against them with feelings
of apprehension. They feared that the old mother and the
young widow would go off one fine morning to mourn the
dear departed at Vernon or elsewhere, and that they would
thus be stranded on Thursday evenings, not knowing what
to do with themselves ; they saw themselves in fancy
wandering helplessly about the Passage, dreaming of gigantic
games at dominoes. While awaiting these evil days, they
timidly enjoyed their last pleasures, coming with a gentle
troubled manner to the shop, repeating each time that per-
haps they might not return. For more than a year they
felt this uneasiness, they did not dare to laugh and joke in
presence of Therese's silence and Madame Raquin's tears.
They did not feel so much at home as in Camille's life time ;
they seemed as if they stole each evening they passed around
the dining-room table. It was under these desperate cir-
cumstances that old Michaud's selfishness prompted him to
make a master-stroke in finding a husband for the young
178 TH^KfcSE RAQUIN.
On the first Thursday after the wedding, Grivet and
Michaud made a triumphal entry. They had conquered.
The dining-room was once more free to them, they no longer
feared a polite dismissal. They arrived radiant, they lounged
about, they repeated one after the other all their old jokes.
One could see by their happy, confident attitude that for
them a great change had taken place. Camille's memory
no longer troubled them ; the dead husband, that spectre
which had frozen them, had been banished by the living
husband. The past was revived with all its joys. Laurent
replaced Camille, all reason for grief had disappeared, the
guests could laugh without causing pain to anyone, and it
was even their duty to laugh, to enliven the excellent family
who were so kind as to receive them. From that time,
Grivet and Michaud, who for about eighteen months had
called, under the pretext of consoling Madame Eaquin, could
put aside their little hypocrisy, and come openly to fall
asleep opposite each other, to the sharp sound of the
And each week brought its Thursday evening, each week
gathered once around the table these grotesque and lifeless
heads which used formerly to exasperate Therese so much.
She now talked of getting rid of them all ; they irritated her
with their silly laughs and stupid remarks. But Laurent
showed her that such a dismissal would be a mistake ;
they should study to make the present as much as possible
resemble the past, above all must they preserve the
friendship of the police, of those idiots who protected them
from all suspicion. Therese yielded ; the guests, well
treated, saw before them with delight a long interminable
succession of pleasant evenings.
It was about this time that the lives of the young couple
seemed to diverge in a measure.
Every morning, as soon as daylight had chased away the
THERESE RAQUIN. 179
terrors of the night, Laurent dressed himself in all haste,
He was not at his ease, he did not resume his selfish calm
until he found himself in the dining-room, seated before a
large bowl of coffee, which Th6rese prepared for him. Ma-
dame Raquin, growing very infirm, and hardly able to go
down to the shop, watched him drink it with a maternal
smile. He swallowed slices of toasted bread, he stuffed his
stomach full, he gained courage by degrees. After his coffee,
he drank a small glass of brandy That completely set him
up. Then after saying "Good-bye till this evening,'' to
Madame Raquin and Therese, without ever offering to kiss
them, he strolled off to his office. Spring came, the leaves
covered the trees on the quays with a light lace-work of
tender green. The river flowed beneath, with a caressing
sound ; the sun shone above with a gentle warmth. Laurent
felt that the fresh air gave him new life ; he drank it in deeply
under those April and May skies ; he sought the sunny side,
he lingered by the Seine to watch the silvery reflections upon
its waters, listening to the sounds on the quays, inhaling
the pungent odours of the morning, enjoying through every
sense the clear and lovely days. He scarcely ever thought
of Camille ; sometimes though he mechanically contem-
plated the Morgue, from the other side of the water, and
it was then he would pluckily think of the drowned man
with a feeling of contempt for his former fears.
With a full stomach, and a clean face, he recovered his
heavy tranquillity, arrived at his office, and passed the
entire day there, yawning and waiting for the hour of dis-
missal. He was nothing but a clerk like the others, bored,
empty-headed. His sole fixed idea at this time was to leave
his present employment and to hire a studio. He had
vague dreams of a new life of idleness, and this was enough
to occupy his mind until the evening. Not once was he
troubled with a thought of the shop in the Passage. In the
180 THfiR^SE RAQUIN.
evening, after having longed since the morning for the hour
of dismissal, he left the office reluctantly, returning along
the quays with a vague feeling of disquiet. In vain did he
walk slowly, the shop must be reached sooner or later.
And there, terror awaited him.
Thirese experienced the same sensations. So long as
Laurent was not with her she felt at ease. She had dis-
missed the charwoman, saying that the work was sadly
neglected, that everything was dirty both in the shop and
in the rooms. Thoughts of keeping things in order came to
her. The real truth was that she felt impelled to walk, to
act, to tire out her stiffened limbs. She was busy the whole
morning, sweeping, dusting, cleaning the rooms, washing
up the plates and dishes, doing work that would have dis-
gusted her in former times. From early morning until
noon, these household duties kept her on her legs, active
and silent, giving her no time for other thoughts than the
cobwebs hanging from the ceiling, and the grease on the
dirty plates. Then she went to the kitchen to prepare the
lunch. At table, Madame Eaquin was worried at seeing
her constantly jump up to change the plates and fetch the
dishes. She was concerned and annoyed by the activity
displayed by her niece. She scolded her, and Therese
replied that economy was necessary.
After the meal the young woman would dress herself, and
at length join her aunt behind the counter. There, drowsi-
ness overcame her. Worn out with sleepless nights, she
dozed off, yielding to the voluptuous torpor which seized
upon her as soon as she was seated. These were only light
slumbers, full of a vague charm, which calmed her nerves.
The thought of Camille was banished. She tasted the pro-
found repose of sick people who suddenly lose their pain.
She felt her flesh relaxed, her mind relieved, plunged into a
soft, refreshing lethe. Had it not been for these moments
THtiKfeSE KAQUlN. 181
of rest, her organism must have broken down under the
tension of her neryous system. She derived from them the
strength necessary to suffer pain and terror on the following
night. Besides, she did not really sleep, she hardly closed
her lids, sunk in a peaceful dream. When a customer came
in she opened her eyes, served the few sous' worth of what-
ever was required, and then relapsed into her floating
She would thus pass three or four hours, perfectly happy,
replying in monosyllables to her aunt, giving herself up
with real enjoyment to the swoons which banished thought
and sank her into oblivion. She rarely even glanced down
the Passage, feeling herself especially at ease in cloudy
weather, when everything was dim and she could hide her
lassitude in the depths of the shadow. The damp loathsome
Passage, used by a crowd of poor wet devils whose umbrellas
dripped on the flagstones, seemed to her the entrance to
some bad place, a kind of dirty corridor of evil omen, where
no one would come to seek or trouble her. Sometimes, on
beholding the dull glimmer hovering about her, and smel-
ling the peculiar odour of the dampness, she would imagine
she had been buried alive ; she would fancy herself deep
down under ground, in a common grave swarming with
corpses. And this thought soothed her, comforted her; she
felt safe then, at the point of death, which was about to end
At other times she had to keep her eyes open ; Suzanne
would pay her a visit and sit beside the counter with her
embroidery the whole afternoon. Olivier's wife, with her
soft face and slow gestures, now quite pleased Th^rese
who found a strange consolation in watching this poor
creature as she gradually wasted away; she had made
a friend of her, she liked having her there, smiling with
a pale smile, living a half life, pervading the shop
182 TH^RfcSE RAQUIN.
with the faint odour of a cemetery. When Suzanne
looked at her with those blue eyes of glassy transparency,
she felt a cold beneficent thrill pass through her frame.
Therese would remain thus till four o'clock. Then she re-
turned to the kitchen, she sought fresh fatigue, and pre-
pared Laurent's dinner with feverish haste. But when her
husband appeared on the threshold, a lump came in her
throat, and her whole being again writhed with anguish.
Day after day the sensations of the couple were much the
same. During the daytime, when they were apart, they
tasted hours of delicious repose ; in the evening, as soon as
reunited, they were filled with poignant uneasiness.
They had, however, quiet evenings. Therese and Laurent,
who shuddered at the thought of going to their room, sat
up as long as possible. Madame Raquin, reclining in a
large lounge chair, was placed between them, and chatted
away with her placid voice. She talked of Vernon, thinking
ever of her son, but avoiding his name from a feeling of
delicacy ; she smiled at her dear children, she made plans
for their future. The lamp cast pale gleams on her white
face ; her voice assumed a wonderful softness in the death-
like, silent air. And seated on either side, the two murderers,
silent, motionless, seemed quietly listening to her; in reality,
they made no attempt to follow the sense of the old lady's
chatter, they were simply happy at this sound of soft words,
which drowned in them the voices of their thoughts. They
dared not look at each other, they looked at Madame Raquin
to give themselves countenance. They never spoke of retir-
ing to rest, they would have remained there until morning,
with the old woman's caressing twaddle ringing in their ears,
in the peacefulness which she created around her, if she had
not herself expressed a wish to get to her bed. Not till then
did they leave the dining-room and retire, in despair, to their
chamber to throw themselves into the depths of an abyss.
THEKfcSE RAQUIN. 183
To these quiet evenings they soon infinitely preferred the
Thursday gatherings. When they were alone with Madame
Eaquin, they could not shake off their thoughts ; tbe thin
thread of the aunt's voice, her tender gaiety could not stifle
the cries which were rending them. They felt the hour
approaching when they must go to bed, they trembled when,
by accident, their eyes met on their bed-room door; the
waiting for the moment when they would be alone became
more and more cruel as the evening wore on. Whereas, on
the Thursdays, they were brimful of nonsense, they each
forgot the other's presence, they suffered less. Therese her-
self began, at last, to ardently long for the reception days.
If Michaud and Grivet had not come, she would have gone
to fetch them. When there were strangers in the dining-
room between her and Laurent she felt more calm; she
would have liked to have always had guests there, with
plenty of noise, anything that would distract her thoughts,
and isolate her. In society she displayed a sort of nervous
gaiety. Laurent, too, brought out his clownish jokes, his
hearty laughs, his studio witticisms. The receptions had
never been so gay or so noisy.
Thus Laurent and Therese were able to meet, once a week,
A new alarm soon overtook them. Paralysis was making
rapid strides with Madame Kaquin, and they foresaw the
day when she would be fixed in her arm-chair, impotent and
stupefied. The poor old woman began to stammer forth
disconnected phrases ; her voice grew weaker, her limbs
were dying one by one. She was becoming a thing. Therese
and Laurent watched with terror the decay of this being
who separated them still, and whose voice drew them away
from their bad dreams. When Madame Eaquin's mind
failed and she remained silent and motionless in her arm-
chair, they would find themselves alone; in the evenings
184 TH^RJSSE RAQUIN.
they would no longer be able to escape the dreaded tete-a-
tete. Then their horrors would begin at six o'clock instead
of at midnight ; they would go mad.
They used every effort to preserve to Madame Eaquin a
health which to them was so precious. They had medical
advice, they were full of little attentions, they even found
in this new occupation of sick-nursing a forgetfulness, a
peacefulness which made them redouble their zeal. They
wished on no account to lose a third presence which made
their evenings just bearable ; they dreaded the dining-room
and the whole house becoming haunted like their owu room.
Madame Kaquin was deeply touched by their unremitting
attentions ; she tearfully congratulated herself at having
united them and given up to them her forty and odd thou-
sand francs. Her son being dead, she had never hoped for
such devotion in her last hours ; her helpless old age was
quite softened by the tenderness of her dear children. She
scarcely felt the implacable paralysis which, notwithstanding,
was creeping upon her day by day.
Meanwhile Therese and Laurent lived their dual existence.
In each there were, so to say, two distinct beings : one
nervous and terrified, who trembled at the approach of night,
the other numbed and forgetful, who breathed freely with
the first rays of the sun. They led two lives, they cried
with anguish when alone, they smiled tranquilly when in
company. Never, before others, did their countenances
betray the sufferings to which they were a prey in private ;
they then appeared calm and happy, instinctively concealing
Judging from their serenity during the day, no one could
have suspected the visions which tortured them at night.
They were looked upon as a happy pair, blessed by Heaven,
living in perfect bliss. Grivet gallantly called them " the
turtle-doves." When their eyes had dark rims through pro-
THERESE RAQUIST. 185
longed sleeplessness, he chaffed them, and asked when the
baptism would be. And everyone laughed. Laurent and
Therese scarcely turned pale, and managed to smile ; they
grew accustomed to the old clerk's rather broad jokes. As
long as they remained in the dining-room they could master
their fears. No one would have guessed the frightful change
produced in them, as soon as they were shut up together in
their bed-room. On Thursday evenings especially, this con-
trast was so brutally violent that it had the effect of some-
thing supernatural. The drama of their nights, by its
weirdness, by its savage fury, surpassed all belief and re-
mained hidden in the depths of their agonized beings. Had
they given it utterance they would have been set down as
" How happy those young lovers are ! " was old Michaud's
frequent remark. " They do not talk much, but they think
the more. I bet they devour each other with caresses when
we are no longer there to see.''
This was the general opinion. Therese and Laurent were
held up as a model pair. The whole Passage du Pont-Keuf
admired the affection, the tranquil happiness, the eternal
honeymoon of the young couple. They alone knew that
Camille's corpse lay stretched between them ; they alone
felt beneath the calm exterior of their faces those nervous
contractions which, at night, horribly distorted their features
and changed the placid expression of their faces into a couple
of loathsome and woeful masks.
Fotje months after his marriage, Laurent resolved to reap
the material benefit that was to be derived from it. He
would have deserted his bride and fled from the spectre of
Camille three days after the wedding, if self-interest had
not held him to the shop in the Passage. He accepted his
nights of terror, he remained on the scene of the anguish
which stifled him, in order not to lose the profits of his crime.
If he left Therese, he would be plunged in poverty, and
forced to retain his situation ; by remaining with her, he
could, on the contrary, gratify his idle nature, and live lux-
uriously while doing nothing, on the money which Madame
Eaquin had invested in his wife's name. It is more than
probable that he would have bolted with the forty thousand
francs, if he had had the power of realizing them ; but the
old woman, with Michaud's advice, had taken the precaution
of settling them on her niece. Laurent found himself, in
consequence, joined to his wife by a very potent tie. As a
compensation for his atrocious nights, he wished at least to
revel in a happy indolence, well fed, well clothed, and with
money in his pocket to satisfy every whim. At this price
only he consented to sleep with the drowned man's corpse.
One evening he told Madame Eaquin and his wife that he
had resigned his post, and would leave the office at the
end of the fortnight. Therese showed her uneasiness. Ho
hastened to add that ho was going to hire a little studio,
where he would resume painting. He expatiated on the
tedium of his present employment, on the vast possibilities
THERESE RAQUIN. 187
opened to him by art. Now that he had a little money in
his pocket, and could make a hid for success, he would see
if he was not capable of great things. The tirade which he
declaimed on this subject merely hid a wild longing to
resume his old artist life.
Thdrfese sat silent, with lips compressed. She had no in-
tention that Laurent should waste the modest fortune which
ensured her independence. When her husband pressed her
with questions, so as to obtain her consent, she replied very
sharply. She gave him to understand that if he left his
office he would be earning nothing, and living entirely at her
expense. While she spoke, Laurent looked at her with such
an evil expression that she was quite upset, and the refusal
she was about to utter stuck in her throat. She thought
Bhe could read in her accomplice's eyes this awful threat :
" I will confess all if you do not consent." She stammered
out something vague. Madame Raquin then explained that
her dear son's wish was very laudable, and that he ought to
be provided with the means of developing his talent. The
good woman spoilt Laurent as she had spoilt Camille. She
was quite won by the caresses the young man lavished on
her ; she belonged to him, and always agreed with what he
So it was settled that the artist should hire a studio, and
receive a hundred francs a month for necessary outlay. The
family budget was regulated as follows : — The profits of the
haberdashery business would pay the rent of the shop and
rooms, and almost suffice for the daily household expenses.
Laurent would take the rent of his studio and his hundred
francs a month out of the two thousand and odd francs of
income ; the remainder of this income would be applied to
the general family expenses. In this way the capital would
remain intact. Therese became more easy. She made her
husband swear that he would never go beyond his allow-
188 THBRESE RAQUIN.
anoe. And then she consoled herself with the thought that
Laurent could not touch her forty thousand francs without
her signature, and she was determined not to sign any
As early as the following day, Laurent hired a small
studio, which he had had his eye upon for a month past,
towards the bottom of the Eue Mazarine. He was resolved
not to give up his present work without having a haven
where he could spend his days quietly away from Th^rese.
At the end of the fortnight, he bade adieu to his fellow-
clerks. Grivet was amazed at his departure. A young
man, said he, who had such a brilliant future before him —
a young man who, in four years, had attained the position
in the office that he, Grivet, had toiled for twenty years to
achieve ! Laurent astonished him still more when he in-
formed him that he was going to devote himself entirely to
At length the artist was installed in his studio. This
studio was a sort of square attic, five or six yards either
way ; the ceiling sloped abruptly with a sharp incline, and
was pierced by a broad window, which admitted a glaring
white light on the floor and on the blackish walls. The
noises of the street did not mount so high. The room,
silent, bare, opening upwards to the sky, was like a hole, a
vault cut out of grey clay. Laurent furnished this vault
after a fashion ; he brought in two worn-out cane chairs, a
table which had to lean against the wall for support, an old
kitchen dresser, his box of colours and his old easel. The
only luxury in the place was a large divan which he bought
at a second-hand dealer's for thirty francs.
He remained a fortnight without even thinking of touch-
ing his brushes. He used to come at eight or nine in the
morning, smoke, lounge on the couch, and wait till it struck
twelve, happy in the thought that the day was still young,
THfiRftSE RAQUTN. 189
with many long hours before its close. At twelve o'clock
he went home to lunch, then hastened back to be alone, and
no longer behold Therese's pale face. Then he digested,
slept, lolled about until evening. His studio was a peaceful
spot where he left off trembling. One day his wife proposed
paying a visit to his dear sanctum. He refused, and as she
came and knocked at the door in spite of his refusal, he did
not open ; he told her in the evening that he had spent the
day studying at the Louvre. He feared Th^rese would
bring Canaille's spectre in her wake.
At last he became tired of this utter idleness. He bought
some canvas and fresh colours, and set to work. Unable to
afford living models, he resolved to paint according to his
fancy, without troubling about nature. He commenced a
He now no longer shut himself up so much ; he worked
for two or three hours every morning, and spent his after-
noons abroad, strolling about Paris and the suburbs. One
day, when returning from one of these long walks, he met,
opposite the Institute, his old college chum, who had
obtained great success at the last Salon.
"What, you!" exclaimed the painter. "Ah, my poor
Laurent, I should never have known you. How thin you
have grown ! "
" I'm married," replied Laurent, in an embarrassed tone.
" Married, you ! Then I don't wonder at the change.
What are you doing now ] "
"I've hired a small studio; I paint a little in the
Laurent gave him a hurried account of his marriage ;
then he feverishly described his future projects. His friend
looked at him with an astonished expression which troubled
and disquieted him. The truth was that the artist no longer
recognised in Therese's husband the common, clumsy fellow
90 TH^RilSE EAQUIN.
Le had formerly known. Laurent seemed to him to have
lecome refined ; his face was thinner and interestingly pale ;
lis whole figure seemed more dignified and supple.
" You are growing quite good-looking," the artist could not
esist saying ; " you have the air of an ambassador. You
re really stylish. At what school are you studying ? "
This cross-examination was most irksome to Laurent. Nor
[id he like to leave his friend abruptly.
" Would you like to come up to my studio V he at length
,sked his friend, who did not seem inclined to leave him.
" Very much," replied he.
The paiuter, unable to account for the great change he
wticed, was anxious to visit his old comrade's studio. He
lad certainly no intention of mounting five stories merely to
ee Laurent's work, which he expected would be sure to
lisgust him ; he simply wished to gratify his curiosity.
After reaching the attic and glancing at the paintings on
he walls, his astonishment redoubled. There were five
itudies, two women's heads and three men's, painted with
iecided power : the treatment was solid and effective, each
letail was brought out with magnificent touches on a trans-
ient grey ground. The artist hastened to examine them,
md was so amazed that he did not try to hide his astonish-
" Is this really your work ? " asked he of Laurent.
" Yes," replied the latter. " They are sketches which
vill be useful to me in a large picture I am projecting."
"Come, no humbug; did you really paint these studies?"
"Yes, I did. Why not?"
The painter did not like to reply : " Because they are the
vork of a true artist, and you were never more than a
y retched dauber." He remained a long time silently exam-
ning the studies. They were decidedly crude, but they had
i peculiarity, a character so powerful that they announced a
THERESE RAQUIN. 191
most highly developed artistic feeling. The painting was
life-like. Laurent's friend had never seen outlines so full of
great promise. When he had thoroughly examined them,
he turned to Laurent :
" Frankly," said he, " I did not think you capable of
painting like this. Where the deuce did you get your talent 1
It is not a thing to be learnt."
And he looked at Laurent, whose voice seemed to him
gentler, whose every movement had a certain elegance.
Little could he guess what terrible shock had changed this
man, developing in him the nerves of a woman, delicate, and
sensitive. There is no doubt that a strange revolution had
taken place in the temperament of Camille's murderer. It
is difficult for analysis to penetrate these depths. Laurent
had possibly become an artist as he had become a coward,
as a consequence of the subversion of his entire physical and
moral system. Formerly, he was stifling under the heavy
weight of his blood, he was blinded by the thick atmosphere
of health which enveloped him ; now, fallen away, trembling,
he had the restless spirit, the quick and sharp sensations of
nervous natures. In the life of terror which he led, his
mind went beyond itself and wandered into the rapture of
genius ; the disorder, in a measure a moral one, the nervous
affection which changed his whole being, developed in him
an artistic feeling extraordinarily brilliant ; since he had
killed Camille, his flesh was as though disburdened, his dis-
tracted brain seemed to have grown immense, and, in this
sudden accession of mind, he had exquisite mental visions, a
poet's reveries. And it was thus that his gestures had
acquired a sudden polish, it was thus that his works
were really laudable becoming in a moment original and
His friend tried no further to fathom the sudden birth of
this artist. He went off in surprise. As he was leaving the
192 THtiRfcSE EAQUIN.
studio, he gave a parting glance at the studies and said to
" I have only one fault to find, and that is that all your
studies have a family likeness. These five heads resemble
each other. Even the women have a kind of hard look
which makes one think they are men in disguise. Tou see,
if you are contemplating a large painting with these heads
introduced, you must alter some of the faces ; your personages
cannot all be brothers and sisters, that would be ridiculous."
He left the studio, and, when on the landing, added with
a laugh :
" I am very glad, old fellow, to have met you. I shall
henceforth believe in miracles. Heavens ! what a swell you
are ! "
He went downstairs while Laurent re-entered the studio in
great perturbation. When his friend had remarked that all
these studies of heads had a family likeness, he had turned
quickly aside to conceal his paleness. For this fatal resem-
blance had already struck him. He slowly returned to the
paintings ; and as he gazed upon them, going from one to
the other, a cold perspiration gathered on his back.
" He is right," he murmured ; " they are all alike. They
are like Camille."
He drew back and sat down on the divan, without being
able to keep his eyes off the studies of heads. The first was
the face of an old man, with a long, white beard ; beneath
this beard the artist could picture Camille's receding chin.
The second represented a fair young girl, and this young girl
gazed at him with his victim's blue eyes. The three other
faces possessed each some feature of the drowned man. It
was as if Camille had been disguised to represent an old
man, a young girl, and every character in which the artist
chose to sketch him, but retaining in each study the general
lineaments of his face. There was another terrible point
ALL THE PORTRAITS PAINTED BY LAURENT RESEMBLE CAMILLE.
TH^RfiSE RAQUIN. 193
of resemblance between these heads ; they appeared to be
suffering and terrified, they seemed as though crushed be-
neath the same feeling of horror. Each had a slight wrinkle
on the left corner of the mouth, which dragged the lips and
distorted them. This wrinkle, which Laurent remembered
seeing on the drowned man's convulsed features, gave them
a mark of low parentage.
Laurent now saw that he had looked too long at Camille
at the Morgue. The image of the corpse had been indelibly
stamped on his memory. Now, his hand was involuntarily
but continually tracing the features of that loathsome face
the memory of which followed him everywhere.
Presently, the painter, who was now leaning back on the
divan, imagined he saw the faces come to life. And he
beheld five Camilles before him, five Camilles powerfully
created by his own fingers, and who, by a horrible caprice,
were of all ages and both sexes. He rose up, hacked the
paintings to pieces, and threw them outside. He felt he
would die of fright in his studio, if he- peopled it himself
with portraits of his victim.
An awful dread had seized him : he feared he had not the
power to sketch any other head but that of the drowned
man, He wished at once to ascertain if he was master of
his own hand. He placed a clean canvas on the easel ; then
with a bit of charcoal he drew the rough outline of a face.
It was Camille's. Laurent hastily rubbed the sketch out
and tried another. For a whole hour he struggled against
the fatality which guided his fingers. At each fresh trial
he returned to the drowned man's head. In vain did he
command his will, and resolve to avoid those well-known
features ; in spite of himself, he traced those lines, he obeyed
his muscles and his rebellious nerves. At first he had
sketched rapid outlines ; he next made a point of guiding
the charcoal slowly. The result was the same : Camille,
191 THERESE RAQUIN.
distorted with agony, invariably appeared upon the
The artist sketched successively heads the most varied,
angels, virgins with aureolas, Roman warriors wearing their
helmets, fair rosy children, old brigands covered with scars ;
always, always, the face of the drowned man appeared, he
was in turn angel, virgin, warrior, child and brigand. Then
Laurent tried caricature, he exaggerated the features, drew
monstrous profiles, invented grotesque heads, and only suc-
ceeded in making more horrible the striking portraits of his
victim. He finished by designing animals, dogs and cats;
the dogs and cats vaguely recalled Camille.
A blind rage took possession of Laurent. He banged his
fist through the canvas, thinking despairingly of his great
picture. Now he must give up the thought for ever ; he
felt that in future he could draw no face but Camille's, and,
as his friend had remarked, faces that all resembled each
other so closely would be ridiculous. He conjured up in
imagination what his great work would have been ; he
beheld on the shoulders of each of his personages, both men
and women, the drowned man's wan and terrified features ,-
the strange spectacle thus evoked exasperated him with its
He would no longer therefore dare to paint, he would
always be dreading to resuscitate his victim with the faintest
touch of his brush. If he wished for peace in his studio he
must never paint there. The thought that his fingers had
the fatal faculty of constantly reproducing Camille's likeness
caused him to look upon his hand with terror. It seemed to
him that the hand was no longer his.
The attack which had been threatening Madame Eaquin
overtook her at last. The paralysis, which for months had
been creeping along her limbs, ever on the point of envelop-
ing her, suddenly grasped her at the throat and held her as
in a vice. One evening, when she was quietly conversing
with Therese and Laurent, she stopped in the middle of a
sentence with her mouth open : she felt as though she were
being strangled. When she tried to call out for help, she
could only stammer hoarse sounds. Her tongue had become
like stone. Her hands and feet had grown rigid. She
found herself struck motionless and dumb.
Therese and Laurent jumped up, terrified at this thunder-
bolt, which, in less 4han five seconds, had doubled up the
poor sufferer. When she was perfectly stiff, and gazed at
them with beseeching eyes, they pressed her with questions
to know the cause of her sufferings. She was unable to
answer, she continued to look at them with profound
anguish. Then they understood that they had nothing
more than a corpse before them, a half living corpse, who
saw what they did and heard what they said, but could not-
speak to them. They were in despair ; not that they really
cared about the sufferings of the poor paralytic, they grieved
for themselves, dreading the eternal tete-a-tete they would
have to pass in the future.
From this day, the life of the couple became intolerable.
They passed cruel evenings, in company with the infirm old
woman who could no longer lull their fears to rest with her
196 THERESE BAQUIN.
gentle prattle. She lay in her easy-chair like a bundle,
like a mere thing, and they sat alone at the opposite ends
of the table, embarrassed and anxious. This living corpse
no longer separated them ; occasionally they forgot her, they
confused her with the furniture. Then they were seized
with their nocturnal fears, the dining-room became, like
their bedroom, a terrible place wherein Camille's spectre
rose before them. In this way they suffered four or five
hours more each day. They trembled from the beginning
of twilight, lowering the lamp-shade to prevent seeing each
other, trying to believe Madame Kaquin was about to speak
and thus remind them of her presence. If they kept her
there and did not get rid of her, it was because her eyes
retained their life and it was sometimes a comfort to watch
them move and shine.
They always placed the sufferer immediately under the
lamp, so as to throw the light full upon her face and ever
have it before them. This poor wan face would have been
an unbearable sight to others, but they had such sore need
of company that their eyes would rest upon it with real joy.
It resembled the decomposed features of a dead person
with two living eyes placed in their midst ; these eyes
alone moved, turning rapidly on every side ; the cheeks and
the mouth were as though petrified, they frightened one
with their immutability. When Madame Eaquin dropped
off to sleep and lowered her eyelids, her pale and silent
countenance was really like that of a corpse ; Thei-ese and
Laurent, who then felt alone together, made a noise until
the paralytic had opened her eyes and looked at them.
They thus made her keep awake.
They looked upon her as a distraction which kept off their
bad dreams. Now that she was infirm, she had to be
tended like an infant. The nursing and attention they
lavished on her, forced them to give another channel to
TELfrRfiSE RAQUIN. 197
their thoughts. In the morning, Laurent helped her up,
and carried her to her chair, and, in the evening, he carried
her back to bed ; she was still heavy, and he had to make
use of all his strength to raise her tenderly in his arms and
carry her. It was also he who wheeled her chair. The
other cares devolved on Therese ; she dressed the sufferer,
fed her, sought to understand her slightest wish. Madame
Raquin retained for some days the use of her hands, she
could write on a slate and thus ask for what she wanted ;
then her hands became powerless, she could no longer lift
them and hold a pencil ; from that time she could only
speak with her eyes, her niece had to guess her wants. The
young woman devoted herself to the hard duties of sick-
nursing ; it gave an employment to her mind and body,
which did her a great deal of good.
In order to avoid being alone by themselves, the couple
wheeled the invalid's chair into the dining-room the very
first thing in the morning. They placed her between them,
as though she had been necessary to their existence ; they
made her assist at their meals, at all their interviews. They
pretended not to understand when she expressed a desire to
go to her own room. She was of no use except to make a
third, she had no right to be alone. At eight o'clock
Laurent would go off to his studio, while Therese went down
to the shop, and the paralytic remained alone in the dining-
room until noon ; then, after lunch, she was again alone
until six o'clock. Often during the day, her niece would go
up, give a look round, and see if she wanted anything. The
friends of the family could not sufficiently praise the virtues
of Therese and Laurent.
The Thursday receptions continued as before, and the in-
valid was always present as formerly. Her chair was
wheeled to the table ; from eight o'clock to eleven she kept
her eyes open, looking in turn at each guest with a pene-
198 THriRfcSE RAQUIN.
trating gaze. At first, old Michaud and Grivet felt rather
uncomfortable in the presence of the living corpse of their
old friend ; they did not know how they ought to look, their
sorrow was very limited, and they wondered how unhappy
they were expected to be. Ought they to address conver-
sation to this dead face, or take no notice of it whatever ?
By degrees, they decided to treat Madame Eaquin as if
nothing had happened to her. They ended by seeming to
completely ignore her condition. They chatted with her,
asking questions and answering them, laughing for her and
for themselves, never allowing themselves to be upset by
the rigid expression of her face. It was a strange sight ;
these men seemed conversing with a statue, as little girls
talk to their dolls. The paralytic sat silent and motionless
before them, and they talked and gesticulated, holding with
her the most animated discourses. Michaud and Griyet
were charmed with their good behaviour. They considered
they were thus showing the greatest politeness, and they
spared themselves, moreover, the nuisance of tl.e customary
condolences. Madame Raquin surely felt flattered at being
treated like a person in good health, and henceforth, it was
permissible to them to make merry in her presence without
the least scruple.
Grivet had a mania. He affirmed that he understood
Madame Eaquin completely, that she could not look at him
without his at once divining her wish. This was another
delicate attention. Unfortunately Grivet was always mis-
taken. Very often, he interrupted the game of dominoes,
looked closely at the paralytic whose eyes were quietly
watching the play, and declared that she wanted such or
such a thing. On investigation, it would be found she
either wanted nothing at all, or something totally different.
This did not discourage G.-ivet, who would shout trium-
phantly : " Just as I told you ! " and begin again, a few
THERESE RAQDIN. 109
minutes Liter. It was a verj' different thing when the poor
woman openly showed some want; Therese, Laurent, the
guests named one after another the things she might require.
Grivet then made himself conspicuous by his mistakes. He
named everything he could think of at haphazard, always
offering the very opposite to what Madame Eaquin required.
Yet, all the same, he would keep repeating :
"As for me, I can read her eyes like a book. There, she
is now saying I am right. Are you not, my dear lady 1
After all, it was no easy matter to guess the sufferer's
wishes. Therese alone possessed that science. She commun-
icated pretty easily with this walled-up mind, still living,
though buried beneath a mass of dead flesh. What was
passing in the brain of this miserable being, who was just
sufficiently alive to exist without being able to take her part
in the life around her? She saw. heard, and reasoned no
doubt in a clear and distinct manner, and was debarred
giving utterance, either by word or gesture, to the thoughts
which arose in her. Perhaps her ideas were stifling her.
She was powerless to raise her hand, or open her mouth, if
even a movement, a word from her might have decided the
destinies of the world. Her mind was like one of. those
miserable wretches who are sometimes by mistake buried
alive, and who awake amid the darkness of the earth, two or
three yards beneath the surface ; they shriek, they struggle,
and we pass over them without hearing their heartrending
cries of despair. Laurent often looked at Madame Eaquin
as she sat, her lips closed, her hands resting on her knees,
concentrating her whole being in her bright restless eyes,
and he would say to himself :
r" "Who knows what are her solitary thoughts? Some
/ terrible drama is possibly being enacted in the depths of
that imprisoned mind."
200 THtiBilSE RAQUIN.
Laurent was wrong. Madame Eaquin was happy, nappy
in the affection and the care of her dear children. She had
always thought that she should fade away thus slowly, sur-
rounded by devotion and caresses. True, she would have
wished to retain the power of speech, to thank the friends
who were helping her to die in peace. But she accepted
her condition with resignation. The peaceful, retired life
she had always led, the sweetness of her disposition, pre-
vented her feeling too severely the sufferings of muteness
and immobility. She had become once more a child ;
she passed her days without tedium, looking about her,
thinking of the past. She even began to enjoy sitting quite
still in her easy-chair, like a good little girl.
Day by day her eyes grew more gentle, more clear in
their expression. She was able to use them like a hand or
a mouth to ask or to thank. Thus she was enabled to
supply, in a wonderful and touching manner, the organs
_ which failed her. Her gaze was beautiful with a celestial
beauty, in the midst of her poor face, the flesh of which
hung flabby and distorted. Since her twisted and inert lips
could no longer smile, she smiled with her eyes, with
adorable tenderness ; moist gleams and brightest rays were
reflected from these orbits. Nothing could be more strange
than these eyes laughing like lips in that dead face; the lower
part of the countenance remained sad and wan, while the
upper part became divinely illumined. It was especially for
her dear children that she crowded all her gratitude, all her
heart's affection, into a simple glance. When, night and
morning, Laurent took her in his arms to carry her, she
thanked him lovingly with looks full of tender effusion.
She lived thus for several weeks, awaiting death, feeling
sheltered from all fresh misfortune. She thought she had
had her share of suffering. She was. mistaken. One even-
ing a terrible blow overtook her.
THERESE RAQUIN. 201
Therese and Laurent had vainly placed her between them,
full in the light. She was no longer sufficiently alive to
separate them and defend them from their misery. When
they forgot that she was there, hearing them and seeing them,
their visions returned ; they saw Camille and tried to drive
him away. Then words were dropped and avowals made in
spite of them, bits of phrases which ended by revealing all
to Madame Eaquin. Laurent had a sort of wild paroxysm
in which he spoke out like a madman. Suddenly the
paralytic knew all.
A fearful contraction passed over her face, and she was
so violently agitated that Therese thought she was about to
leap up and shout aloud. Then she relapsed into the
rigidity of iron. This sort of shock was the more appalling
that it seemed to galvanize a corpse. Sensibility, momen-
tarily recalled, vanished ; the invalid was left more prostrate,
more ghastly pale. Her eyes, usually so soft, had become
black and hard, like two bits of metal.
Never on any poor mortal had despair fallen with a more
sudden blow. The frightful truth scorched the eyes of the
paralytic like a flash of lightning, and penetrated her with
the force of a thunderbolt. Had she been able to rise to
utter the cry of horror which mounted to her throat to curse
her son's murderers, she would have suffered less. But,
after having heard everything, understood everything, she
was forced to remain silent and motionless, confining within
her the horror of her grief. She felt as if Therese and
Laurent had tied her down, nailed her to her chair to
prevent her springing up, and that they took a hideous
pleasure in repeating to her : " We have murdered Camille,''
after having placed a gag over her mouth to stifle her moans.
Terror, anguish seemed tearing up and down her frame,
unable to have vent. She made superhuman efforts to raise
the weight that was crushing her, to loosen the muscles
202 THERESE RAQUIN.
of her throat, and thus give outlet to the torrent of her
despair. But powerless were her last efforts. She felt her
tongue cold against her palate ; she could not escape her
living death. The powerlessness of a corpse held her rigid.
Her sensations resembled those of a man fallen into a trance,
buried for dead, and who, fettered by the bonds of his flesh,
hears the dull sound of the gravel being shovelled in over-
The ravishes accomplished in her heart were still more
terrible. She felt an internal crumbling which wrecked her.
Her whole life was left desolate ; all her tenderness, all
her kind feelings, all her devotion, had been brutally up-
rooted and trodden under foot. She had led a life of
affection and gentleness, and in her last hours, when
she thought to carry to the grave her faith in the tranquil
joys of existence, a voice cried out to her that all is false and
all is wicked. The veil which had been rent showed her,
beyond the love and friendship she had believed in, a fearful
spectacle of blood and shame. She would have railed at
God had she been able to utter a blasphemy. God had
deceived her for over sixty years by treating her as a good
and gentle little girl, by amusing her eyes with false pictures
of tranquil joy. And she had remained child-like, thinking
foolishly of a thousand silly things, unable to see real life
dragged through the bloody mire of evil passions. God was
wicked ; He should have told her the truth sooner, or have
let her depart in her blind innocence. Now she had nothing
left but to die, denying the existence of love, friendship,
devotion. Nothing remained but murder and sensuality.
What ! Camille had been done to death by Therese and
Laurent, and these two had conceived the crime in the
midst of their shameful adultery ! There was for Madame
Raquin, in this thought, such an abyss that she could not
reason it out or seize hold of it in" a clear and detailed
THERESE RAQUIN. 203
manner. She experienced one sensation only, that of a
horrible fall ; she felt as though she were dropping into a
black, chilly hole. And she said to herself : " I shall be
smashed to pieces at the bottom."
After the first shock, the monstrosity of the crime seemed
to her to make it impossible. Then she feared she should
lose her reason, when she was convinced of the adultery and
the murder, by the remembrance of trifling circumstances
which before had puzzled her. Therese and Laurent were
without doubt Camille's murderers — Therese whom she had
brought up, Laurent whom she had loved as a tender,
devoted mother. This great fact turned round and round
in her head like a gigantic wheel with a deafening noise.
She imagined such loathsome, details, she fathomed such
deep hypocrisy, she saw in her mind's eye a double game of
such atrocious irony, that she would gladly have died to put
an end to her faculty of thinking. One single idea, mechanical
and implacable, ground her brain with the weight and
tenacity of a mill-stone. She kept repeating to herself:
" It is my children who have murdered my child," and this
was all she could find to express her despair.
In the sudden revulsion of all her feelings, she lost her-
self and could not recognise herself any more ; she remained
overwhelmed by the brutal invasion of thoughts of vengeance
which swamped her natural kindliness of heart. After this
transformation, all was dark in her; she felt, growing in
her dying frame, a new being, cruel and implacable, who
longed to bite the murderers of her son.
When she had succumbed to the relentless grasp of
paralysis, when she had realized that she could not fly at the
throats of Therese and Laurent, whom she longed to strangle,
she resigned herself to silence and immobility, and big tears
fell slowly from her eyes. Nothing could be more heart-
breaking than that mute and motionless despair. Those
204 THERESE RAQU1N.
tears which fell one by one on that dead face of which not
a muscle moved, that pale inert face which could only show
its grief by weeping from its eyes, presented a touching
The'rese was seized with a terrified pity.
" You must carry her to bed," said she to Laurent, point-
ing to her aunt.
Laurent hastened to wheel her into her room. Then he
stooped down to lift her in his arms. At this juncture,
Madame Raquin hoped some hidden power would enable
her to spring to her feet ; she made a supreme effort. God
would not surely permit Laurent to hold her to his breast ;
she trusted a thunderbolt would fall on him if he attempted
anything so monstrous. But her effort availed nothing, and
Heaven reserved its thunder. She remained powerless,
passive, as a bundle of linen. She was seized, taken up,
carried by the assassin ; she had the agony of feeling herself
inert and abandoned in the arms of Camille's murderer.
Her head rolled on to Laurent's shoulder, and she fixed on
him her eyes dilated with horror.
" There, there, look at me as much as you like," mur-
mured he, " your eyes can't devour me."
And he flung her brutally on the bed. The infirm old
woman fainted away. Her last thought had been one of
terror and disgust. In future she must, morning and even-
ing, submit to the foul embrace of Laurent's arms.
Nothing less than a sudden and irresistible paroxysm of
fear had caused the guilty pair to speak, to make avowals in
the presence of Madame Raquin. They were neither one
nor the other naturally cruel ; humanity would have
prompted them to avoid such a revelation, even if their own
safety had not already enjoined them to keep silence.
On the ensuing Thursday they were singularly uneasy.
In the morning, Therese asked Laurent if he thought it safe
to have the paralytic in the dining-room during the evening.
She knew all, and might give the alarm.
" Bosh ! " replied Laurent, " she can't stir so much as
her little finger. How can she do mischief 1 "
" She will perhaps find some means,'' answered Therese.
" Since that evening, I can read an implacable resolve in
" Oh ! no, the doctor told me all was indeed over for her.
If she ever speaks again, it will be in the rattle of her last
agony. She cannot last much longer. We should be fools
to burden our consciences with anything more, by preventing
her assisting at our gathering."
" You misunderstood me," she cried. " Oh ! you are
right, enough blood has been shed. I meant we could shut
my aunt in her room and pretend she is asleep, or not so
" Just so," replied Laurent, " and that fool Michaud would
206 THtiRfiSE RAQUIN.
walk into the room all the same to see his old friend. It
would be an excellent way to ruin us.''
He stammered, he wished to seem at his ease, but fear
made him falter.
" We had better let things take their course," he con-
tinued. "Those people are as stupid as geese; they will
not be able to understand the old woman's mute despair.
They cannot suspect anything, for they have not the most
remote idea of the truth. The experiment once made, we
shall be easy for the future, despite our imprudence. You
will see, it will be all right."
That evening, when the guests arrived, Madame Raquin
occupied her usual place between the stove and the table.
Laurent and Therese made a show of being in high spirits,
hiding their fears, watching with dread for the incident
which was sure to occur. They had lowered the lamp shade
to the utmost ; the American cloth alone was illuminated.
The guests began with the trivial, noisy conversation
which was the invariable prelude to the first game of
dominoes. Grivet and Michaud occupied themselves, as
usual, in polite inquiries after the health of the invalid,
inquiries to which they themselves furnished the most satis-
factory replies, as they were in the habit cf doing. After
that, without another thought to the poor old woman, the
company threw themselves, heart and soul, into the game.
Since she had learnt the horrible secret, Madame Raquin
had been awaiting this evening with feverish longing. She
had collected her last remnant of strength to denounce the
culprits. Up to the last moment, she had feared she would
not be present ; she thought Laurent would hide her, kill
her perhaps, or, at least, shut her up in her room. When
she found she was going to be left there with the guests,
she rejoiced in thinking she would make an effort to avenge
her son. Knowing the power of utterance was gone, she
THtiKfcSE EAQUIN. 207
tried a new language. By a suprreme force of will; she
succeeded in galvanizing, so to say, her dead right hand, and
in raising it slightly from her knee, where it was always
stretched inert ; then she made it climb slowly up one of
the legs of the table before her, and managed to get it on to
the American cloth. Then she feebly moved the fingers to
When the players beheld in their midst this dead hand,
so white and powerless, they were much surprised. Grivet
stopped, with his arm raised, at the moment of triumphantly
placing the double six. Ever since the seizure, the paralytic
had been unable to move her hands.
" Look ! Therese," cried Michaud, " Madame Eaquin is
positively moving her fingers ! No doubt, she wants some-
Therese was unable to reply ; she and Laurent had both
watched these unwonted movements of the paralytic, she
saw her aunt's hand, dead-white under the glare of the lamp,
like an avenging hand about to speak. The two murderers
" By Jove ! yes," said Grivet, " she wants something.
Oh ! she and I understand each other well. She wants to
play dominoes. That's it, isn't it, my dear lady ? "
Madame Eaquin made a violent sign in the negative.
With immense effort, she stretched out one finger, bent the
others back, and began painfully to trace letters on the table.
She had scarcely made a few marks, when Grivet again called
out in triumph :
" I see : she says I'm right in placing the double six."
The paralytic cast an angry look at the old clerk, and
resumed the word she wished to write. But at every
moment Grivet interrupted her, saying it was useless, that
he had understood, and he suggested some fresh nonsense.
At last, Michaud insisted on his keeping quiet.
208 THERESE RAQUIN.
"Why the devil can't you let Madame Eaquin speak?"
said he. " Speak, my old friend."
And he watched the American cloth as though he had
been listening. But the paralytic's fingers were growing
weary, they had begun a word at least ten times, and they
now wavered from right to left in trying to finish it. Michaud
and Olivier leant forward, unable to decipher it and en-
couraging the sufferer to try again.
" Good ! " cried Olivier suddenly. " I can make it out
this time. She has written your name, Therese. Look :
' Therese and — ' Go on, my dear lady."
Therese nearly screamed with anguish. She watched her
aunt's fingers moving over the cloth, and it seemed to her
that these fingers were tracing her name and her crime in
letters of fire. Laurent had risen hastily, debating whether
he should make a rush at the old woman and break her arm.
He thought all was lost, he felt the chill and the weight of
his punishment, as he beheld that hand return to life to
reveal Canaille's murder.
Madame Eaquin still wrote on, but more and more feebly.
" It's quite clear, I can read that plainly," resumed Olivier,
after a pause, looking at the pair. " Your aunt has written
both your names : ' Therese and Laurent — ' "
The old lady made several signs of affirmation, while
casting crushing glances at the murderers. Then she tried
to finish, but her fingers had stiffened. The supreme force
of will which had galvanized them, was escaping from her ;
she felt the paralysis slowly return along her arm, and again
seize hold of her wrist. She hurried on, and managed to
trace another word.
Old Michaud read aloud :
" Therese and Laurent have — "
And Olivier asked :
" What is it they have done, your dear children ] "
TH^RtlSE RAQU1N. 209
The murderers, seized with maddening fear, were on the
point of completing the sentence aloud. They were gazing
with fixed and troubled eyes at the avenging hand, when,
all at once, that hand was convulsed and stretched flat on
the table ; then it slipped and fell on the knee of the para-
lytic like a mass of inanimate flesh. The malady had returned
and arrested the punishment. Michaud and Olivier sat
down again disappointed, while Therese sind Laurent tasted a
joy so sudden, that they nearly fainted under the reaction.
Grivet was vexed at having his word doubted. He thought
the moment had arrived for retrieving bis fame by com-
pleting Madame Raquin's unfinished sentence. As everyone
was seeking its meaning :
" It's plain enough," said he, " I can read the rest of it in
madame's eyes. I don't need her writing on a table ; one of
her looks suffices for me. She meant to say ; ' Therese and
Laurent have taken good care of me.' "
Grivet was delighted with his idea, for the whole company
agreed with him. The guests began praising the couple who
were so devoted to the poor invalid.
" It's, evident," said old Michaud, gravely, " that Madame
Raquin wished to do homage to the tender attentions be-
stowed on her by her children. That is an honour for the
And he added, as he returned to his dominoes :
" Come, let's continue. Where were we 1 Grivet was
just going to place the double six, I think."
Grivet placed the double six. The game went on, stupid
The paralytic was looking at her hand, plunged in deep
despair. Her hand had just played her false. She felt it
now as heavy as lead ; never again would she be able to
raise it. Heaven did not will that Camille should be avenged,
his mother was deprived of the sole means of making known
210 TH^RilSE RAQUIX.
to mankind the murder of which he had been the victim.
And the unhappy creature told herself there was nothing
left for her to do but to go and join her child in the grave.
She closed her eyelids, feeling useless henceforth, and wishing
to think herself already in the darkness of the tomb.
For two months, Th^rese and Laurent had struggled with
the miseries of their union. Each caused the other to suffer.
By slow degrees, hatred grew up between them, they ended
by casting angry glances at each other, full of vague
It was but natural that hatred should come. They had
loved lik6 brutes, with a hot passion, all of the blood ; then,
amid the enervating effects of the crime, their love had
turned to fear, and their caresses had filled them with a sort of
physical fright ; now, beneath the suffering which marriage
and a common existence forced upon them, they became dis-
gusted and enraged.
Their hatred was an atrocious one and broke into, terrible
outbursts. They felt that they bored each other ; they
told themselves they would lead peaceful lives if they were
not for ever face to face. When together, an enormous
weight seemed stifling them, and they would have liked to
remove this weight, to destroy it; their lips were compressed,
thoughts of violence gleamed in their clear eyes, and they
longed to destroy each other.
In reality the same thought was gnawing at their vitals :
they were furious at the contemplation of their crime, they
were desperate at having for ever blasted their lives. This
was the true source of their anger and their hatred. They
felt the evil to be incurable, that they must suffer till the
day of their death for the murder of Camille, and this idea
of the perpetuity of their suffering exasperated them. Not
212 THERESE RAQUIN.
knowing who to blame, they mutually blamed themselves,
they execrated one another.
They would not acknowledge that their marriage was the
fatal punishment for the murder ; they refused to hear
the inner voice which cried out the truth, and spread before
them the history of their life. And yet, in the fits of rage which
agitated them, they could both clearly read the secret of their
anger, they could divine the fury of their selfish lust, which
had urged them to commit murder to satisfy their criminal
desires, and then found in the result of the murder a discon-
solate and intolerable existence. They remembered the past,
they knew that their disappointed hope of licentious pleasure
and peaceful happiness had alone filled them with remorse ;
if they could have lived joyfully and loved on in peace, they
would not have mourned Camille, they would have fattened
on their crime. But their bodies had revolted, refusing
marriage, and they asked themselves in terror whither their
fear and disgust would lead them. They could only foresee
a frightful future of suffering, an awful and violent consum-
mation. Then, like two enemies who have been tied together
and are making futile efforts to release themselves from this
enforced embrace, they strained every nerve and muscle,
they girded themselves up, without being able to set them,
selves free. Then, realizing that they must ever remain
within each other's grasp, irritated by the cords which were
cutting mto their flesh, loathing each other's touch, feeling
their uneasiness hourly increase, forgetting their union was
their own work, and unable to bear their bonds for another
instant, they hurled- the most horrible reproaches at each
other, they tried to suffer less, to stanch the wounds they
were inflicting, by abusing one another, by deafening each
other with their cries and accusations.
Every evening witnessed a fresh quarrel. The murderers
seemed to seek occasions for aggravating each other, and
THERESE RAQUIN. 213
relaxing their strained nerves. They watched each other,
read each other with a glance, probing the wounds, finding'
the sore spots, and taking a fiendish delight in making each
other howl in agony. They thus lived amid continual irri-
tation, tired of each other, unable any longer to bear a word,
a look, a gesture without suffering and going crazy. Their
whole beings were ready for violence ; the least impatience,
the most ordinary disappointment became strangely ex-
aggerated in their disordered minds, and grew suddenly into
acts of gross brutality. A mere nothing raised a storm
which lasted till the following day. Too hot a dish, an open
window, a contradiction, a simple remark sufficed to drive
them raving mad. And ever, in the heat of the dispute,
they flung the drowned man at each other's heads. From
one word to another they got to reproach each other with
the murder at Saint-Ouen; then they were beside
themselves with rage, they could no longer control their
passion. Then followed terrible scenes, stifled cries, blows,
horrible shrieks, shameful brutality. It was generally after
dinner that Therese and Laurent quarrelled thus ; they shut
themselves up in the dining-room that others might not
hear the noise of their despair. There, they could fight it
out, in that damp room, that sort of vault which the lamp
illumined with yellowish rays. In the silence and tranquillity
of the air their voices rang out with harrowing distinctness.
They did not cease until they were exhausted with fatigue ;
then only could they hope for a few hours of rest. Their
quarrels became a sort of necessity to them, a means of gain-
ing sleep by stupefying their nerves.
Madame Eaquin listened to them. She was always pre-
sent, in her easy-chair, her hands stretched on her knees, her
head erect, her face motionless. She heard all, and her dead
flesh remained without a shudder. Her eyes fastened them-
selves on the murderers with a penetrating gaze. Her mar-
214 THEKESE RAQUIN.
tyrdom must have been atrocious. She thus learnt by de-
grees every detail of the events which had preceded and
followed Camille's murder, she was gradually made aware of
all the lewdness and crimes of those she had called her dear
The quarrels of the guilty pair made known to her the
smallest circumstances, and unveiled to her terrified mind,
one by one, the episodes of the horrible tragedy. And as
she penetrated deeper into this bloody mire, she cried mercy,
she thought to have reached the depths of infamy, and she
had to go lower still. Every evening she learnt some fresh
detail. The frightful history was ever growing before her ;
it seemed to her she was lost in a never-ending dream of
horror. The first avowal had been brutal and crushing, but
she suffered still more from these repeated blows, from these
little facts which the couple let escape them in their fury
and which threw a sinister light on the crime. Once a day
this mother heard the account of her son's murder, and each
day this account became more ghastly, more vivid, and was
dinned into her ears with more force and cruelty.
Sometimes, Therese was seized with remorse in the pre-
sence of that wan face, down which silently coursed great
tears. She would draw Laurent's attention to her aunt,
imploring him with a look to be silent.
" Oh, nonsense ! " he would brutally cry, " you know very
well she can't denounce us. Am I any happier than she
is 1 We have her money, so there's no need for me to put
And the quarrel would continue, fierce, piercing, killing
Camille afresh. Neither Therese nor Laurent dared yield
to the feeling of pity which sometimes came to them to shut
the paralytic up in her room, when they were quarrelling,
and thus to save her the account of the crime. They feared
they might murder each other, if they had no longer even
TnfiRSSE RAQUIN. 215
this living corpse between them. Their pity succumbed to
their cowardice, they inflicted untold suffering on Madame
Raquin, because they needed her presence as a safeguard for
themselves against their hallucinations.
All their quarrels were alike and led them to the same
accusations. From the moment that Camille's name was
uttered and that one accused the other of killing him, the
battle began in earnest.
One evening, at dinner, Laurent, who was seeking for a
pretext to give vent to his ill-temper, found the drinking
water in the water-bottle luke-warm ; he declared that tepid
water made him sick, and that he must have some cold.
" I was unable to get any ice," replied Therese curtly.
" All right, I sha'n't drink," retorted Laurent.
" The water is quite right."
" It's warm and tastes muddy. It's just like river water."
Therese repeated :
" River water."
And she burst into a fit of sobbing. An association of
ideas had just taken place in her mind.
" What are you crying for 1 " asked Laurent, who foresaw
the answer and turned pale.
" I'm crying," sobbed the young woman, " because — you
know well enough — oh ! my God ! my God ! It was you
who killed him."
" You lie ! " cried the murderer vehemently, " confess that
you lie. If I threw him into the Seine it was because you
drove me to commit the murder."
" I ! I ! "
" Yes, you ! Don't deny it, don't oblige me to force tho
truth out of you. I mean to make you confess your crime,
and own your share in the murder. That will soothe and
" But it wasn't I who drowned Camille."
216 THERESE RAQUIN.
" Yes, a thousand times yes, it was you ! Oh ! you feign
surprise and forgetfulness. Wait, I'll bring it back to your
He rose up from the table, bent over towards the young
woman, and, crimson with rage, shouted in her face :
" You were at the water's edge, you remember, and I said
to you in a whisper : 'I'm going to chuck him into the water.
Then you agreed to it, you got into the boat. You see very
well that you murdered him with me."
" It's false. I was beside myself, I don't remember what
I did, but I never wished to kill him. You alone committed
These denials tortured Laurent. As he told her, it was
a comfort to him to feel he had an accomplice ; he would
have endeavoured to prove to himself, had he dared, that all
the horror of the murder lay at Therese's door. He had
longings to beat the young woman to make her confess she
was the guiltier of the two.
He began pacing the room, shouting, gesticulating, fol-
lowed by Madame Eaquin's fixed gaze.
" Oh ! the wretch ! the wretch!" stammered he in a choking
voice, " she wants to drive me mad. Didn't you come one
night to my room, like a common prostitute ? didn't you
intoxicate me with your caresses to get me to remove your
husband from your path % He disgusted you, he smelt like a
sick child, you told me so when I used to come and visit you
here. Had I such thoughts three years ago ? Was I such
a scoundrel 1 I was leading the quiet life of an honest man,
doing harm to no one. I wouldn't have hurt a fly."
" It was you who killed Camille," repeated Therese, with
a desperate obstinacy which maddened Laurent.
" No. it was you, I tell you it was you," replied he furiously.
" You had better not exasperate me, it might end badly.
Do you mean to say, you wretched woman, that you don't
TH£R,£SE RAQUIN. 217
remember anything 1 You gave yourself up to me like a
common -woman, there, in your husband's room ; you taught
me a voluptuousness which drove me mad. Confess that you
had calculated all this, that you hated Camille, and that you
had for a long while wanted to get rid of him. You doubtless
took me as your lover in order to make me your tool to kill him."
" It isn't true. Your accusation is monstrous. You have
no right to taunt me with my weakness. I can say, as you
do, that before I met you I was a respectable woman who
had never done any one an injury. If I led you astray, you
led me farther astray. We had better drop arguing, do you
hear, Laurent? I might have rather too many things to
reproach you with.''
" What can you have to reproach me with 1 "
" Oh, nothing. You didn't save me from myself, you took
advantage of my weakness, you exulted in ruining my life.
I forgive it all. But, for mercy's sake, don't accuse me of
killing Camille. Keep your own crime to yourself; don't try
to terrify me beyond endurance.''
Laurent raised his hand to strike Therese in the face.
" Beat me, I prefer that," she added, " the suffering would
And she held her face to him. He restrained himself,
fetched a chair, and sat down beside the young woman.
" Listen to me," he said, trying to speak calmly, " it's
cowardly to deny your share in the crime. You're perfectly
well aware that we committed it together, you know you're
as guilty as I am. Why will you double my burthen by
maintaining your innocence ? Were you innocent, you would
never have consented to marry me. Remember the two
years which followed the murder. Would you like a proof 1
I will go and confess all to the public prosecutor, and you
will see if we shall not both be condemned."
They shuddered, and Therese replied :
" The public might, perhaps, condemn me, but Camille
218 THlilRfiSE RAQUIN.
knows that you did it all. He does not haunt me at night
as he does you.''
" Camille leaves me in peace," said Laurent, pale and
trembling, " it's you who see him in your nightmares ; I've
heard your screams."
" Don't say that," cried the young woman angrily, "I
didn't scream, I don't want the ghost to come. Oh, I under-
stand, you want to turn him away from you. I'm innocent,
I'm innocent ! "
They gazed at each other terror-stricken, exhausted, fearing
they should see the corpse of the drowned man. Their
quarrels always ended thus ; they protested their innocence,
they sought, by self-deception, to banish bad dreams. Their
continual efforts were directed to mutually denying the re-
sponsibility of the crime, to defending themselves as if before
a tribunal, each hurling at the other the most terrible
accusations, Strange to say they never succeeded in be-
coming dupes of their own oaths, both having a clear recol-
lection of all the circumstances of the murder. They read
the confession in each other's eyes, though their lips denied
it. Puerile lies, ridiculous assertions, a wordy dispute of
two wretched beings who lied for lying's sake, without the
power of ignoring their untruth. They played, in turn, the
part of accuser, and, though the trial they acted never had
any result, they recommenced it each evening with cruel
tenacity. They knew they could prove nothing, that they
could not ehange the past, yet they persisted in the attempt,
they returned ever to the charge, goaded by pain and terror,
vanquished beforehand by the overwhelming reality. The
sole result of their disputes was a tempest of words and shouts,
the noise of which deafened them for a moment.
As long as their passion raged in stormy accusations, the
stricken woman fixed upon them her steady gaze. Her eyes
shone with an ardent joy, whenever Laurent raised his great
hand over Thereae's head.
A fresh phase declared itself. Therese, driven to extremity
by her fears, seeking vainly some thought to console her,
began mourning the drowned man aloud . in Laurent's
A sudden despondency took possession of her. Her nerves,
too tightly strung, collapsed, her hard and violent nature
softened. She had already felt some emotion in the early
days of her marriage. This emotion returned, as a necessary
but fatal reaction. When the young woman had struggled
with her whole nervous energy against Camille's spectre,
when she had lived several months in a state of secret irrita-
tion, indignant at her sufferings, seeking to cure them by
the sole effort of her will, she suddenly experienced such
physical lassitude that she faltered and was vanquished.
Then, once more a weak woman, even a young girl, without
the strength to be firm, to stand up feverishly confronting
her fears, she gave herself up to compassion, to tears and
regrets, hoping to find in them some consolation. She tried
to make capital of the weakness of the mind and of the
flesh which beset her. Perhaps the drowned man, who had
not yielded to her anger, might yield to her tears. She
therefore calculated her remorse, telling herself it was
doubtless the best means to soothe and appease Camille.
Like certain devotees, who think to deceive God and to
obtain pardon from Him by praying with the lips only, and
putting on the humble attitude of penitence, Therese
humbled herself, beat her breast, sought words of repent-
220 Tffl&RfcSE RAQUIN.
ance, without having in her heart aught save fear and
cowardice. Besides, she experienced a certain physical
pleasure in abandoning herself, in feeling herself weak and
shattered, in offering herself up unresistingly to her grief.
She overwhelmed Madame Raquin with her tearful
despair. The paralytic became of daily use to her. She
served Therese as a sort of fall-stool, a piece of furniture
before which she could fearlessly confess her sins and ask for
pardon. As soon as she felt the need for tears, for finding
a resource in weeping, she threw herself on her knees
before the invalid, and there cried and choked, enacting a
scene of remorse which relieved while it weakened her.
" I am a wretched woman," she faltered ; " I deserve no
forgiveness. I deceived you ; I sent your son to his death.
Never can you forgive me. And yet, if you could read in
my heart the remorse which is rending it, if you knew how
much I suffer, perhaps you would take pity on me. But no,
there is no pity for me. I would gladly die thus at your
feet, crushed by shame and sorrow."
She would talk on in this strain for hours together, pass-
ing from despair to hope, first condemning, then pardoning
herself. She affected the tones of a little sick girl, now curt,
now plaintive. She threw herself flat on the ground, and
then stood up, obeying every impulse of pride and humility,
of repentance and revolt, which passed through her frame.
Sometimes she even forgot she was kneeling before Madame
Raquin, and she continued her monologue in a dream.
When she had quite bewildered herself with her own words,
she would rise up tottering, stupefied, and go down into
the shop, calmed, and no longer fearing a nervous outburst
of sobbing before her customers. When a fresh fit of
remorse attacked her, she would run up again to her aunt,
and again throw herself on her knees at her feet. And this
scene began afresh ten times a day.
TmfiRfcSE RAQUIK. 221
Therese never thought what indescribable agony her
tears and noisy repentance must have been to her aunt.
In truth, if a new punishment had been sought to torture
Madame Eaquin, no more frightful one could certainly have
been found than the comedy of remorse played by her
niece. The stricken woman divined the selfishness con-
cealed beneath these outbursts of grief. She suffered
horribly from these long monologues to which she was
forced to listen every moment, and which were a constant
reminder of her son's murder. She could not forgive, she
wrapped herself up in implacable thoughts of vengeance,
rendered more acute by her impotence, and, all day long,
she was condemned to listen to prayers for pardon, cowardly,
humble petitions. Shu' longed to reply ; some of her niece's
words filled her throat with crushing refusals, but she had
to remain silent, letting Therese plead her cause, without
ever interrupting her. Her inability to cry out or to close
her ears filled her with indescribable torment. And, one
by one, the young wife's words fell upon her ear, slow and
plaintive, like an irritating song. She thought at first that
the murderers inflicted this kind of punishment upon her
from a motive of diabolical cruelty. Her only means of
defence was to close her eyes, so soon as her niece knelt
before her ; if she must hear her, she need not see her.
Therese became at length emboldened to embrace her
aunt. One day, in a fit of contrition, she pretended to
have seen a look of mercy in the paralytic's eyes. She
dragged herself along on her knees, crying in distracted
tones : " You forgive me ! You forgive me ! " then she
kissed the brow and cheeks of the poor old woman, who was
unable to move her head away. The cold flesh on which
Therese placed her lips caused her violent disgust. She
thought this disgust would be, like the tears and remorse,
an excellent specific for calming her nerves ; she continued
222 THERESE RAQUIK.
to kiss the invalid daily by way of penance and for the sake
" Oh, how good you are 1 " she sometimes cried. " I see
my tears have moved you. Your looks are full of pity. I
am saved ! "
And she bverwhelmed her with caresses, put her head on
her knees, kissed her hands, smiled at her in a happy kind
of way, tended her with marks of passionate affection.
After a little while, she came to believe in the reality of
this comedy, she fancied she had obtained Madame Eaquin's
pardon, and thenceforth she unceasingly talked to her of
the happiness she felt at having her forgiveness.
This was too much for the paralytic. She nearly died of
it. When enduring her niece's kisses, she felt the same
sharp repugnance and anger which filled her morning and
evening when Laurent took her in his arms to or from her
bedroom. She was condemned to submit to the loathsome
caresses of the abandoned woman who had betrayed and
murdered her son ; she could not even wipe off the kisses
which this woman left upon her cheeks. For many weary
hours she could feel these kisses burning her. She had
thus become the puppet of Camille's destroyers, a puppet
whom they dressedj turned this way and that, and made use
of according to their needs and caprices. She remained
inert in their hands, as if she had been filled with bran, and
yet she was a living being, disgusted and heartbroken at
the mere touch of Ther&se or Laurent. What exasperated
her most of all was the atrocious mockery of the young
woman, who pretended to read thoughts of pardon in her
glances when those glances would have gladly dealt death
to the criminal. She often made supreme efforts to utter a
cry of protest ; she concentrated all her hatred in her eyes.
But Therese, whose purpose it answered to repeat twenty
times a day that she was forgiven, redoubled her caresses,
THfiRESE EAQUIN. 223
and refused to understand. The paralytic had to accept '
thanks and effusive observations from which her heart re-
volted. From that time she became filled with a bitter and
powerless irritation against her cringing niece, who sought
for adorable endearments to reward her for what she called
her heavenly goodness.
When Laurent was there, and his wife knelt before
Madame Raquin, he would raise her up roughly :
" No acting," he would say. " Do I go on my knees and
shed tears 1 You do all that to upset me.''
Th^rese's remorse worried him strangely. His suffering
had augmented since his accomplice had taken to dragging
herself about him, her eyes red with weeping, her lips mov-
ing beseechingly. The sight of this living grief redoubled
his fears and increased his uneasiness. It was like an
eternal reproach stalking about the house. And he began
to fear that repentance would one day prompt his wife to
reveal everything. He would have preferred that she had
remained stiff and menacing, defending herself rancorously
against his accusations. But she had changed her tactics ;
she now voluntarily avowed her share in the crime ; she
accused herself; she became gentle and timid, and turned to
imploring redemption with zealous humility. This attitude
irritated Laurent. Their quarrels grew more ominous and
alarming every evening.
"Listen," Therese would say to her husband; "we are
great sinners; we must repent, if we wish to enjoy any
peace. See me, since my repentance I have found more
peace. Do as I have done. Let us say together that we
are justly punished for having committed a horrible crime."
" Bosh ! " Laurent would gruffly reply. " Say what you
like. I know you're devilish clever and hypocritical. Weep
away, if it amuses you. But have the goodness not to
annoy me with your tears.''
224 THERESE RAQUIN.
" Ah ! you are indeed wicked. You refuse to show the
least remorse. You're a coward, though, for you stole upon
"Do you mean to say I alone am guilty?"
"No, I don't say that. I'm guilty, more guilty than you
are. I should have defended my husband against you.
Oh ! I see all the horror of my sin ; but I am trying to
obtain forgiveness for it, and I shall succeed, Laurent, while
you, you will continue to lead a miserable life. You haven't
even the decency to hide your loathsome anger from my
poor aunt ; nor have you ever said one penitent word to
And she would embrace Madame Raquin, who closed her
eyes. She hovered about her, raising the pillow that sup-
ported her head, lavishing on her a thousand little attentions.
Laurent grew exasperated.
"Why don't you leave her alone?" he would cry. " Can't
you see that you and your attentions are odious to her % If
she could raise her hand, she would strike you."
His wife's measured, melancholy tones, her resigned atti-
tudes, made him gradually fly into a blind rage. He saw
plainly enough what her tactics were. She no longer in-
tended making common cause with him ; she meant to stand
apart, enveloped in her repentance, in order to escape the
dead man's embrace. Now and then it flashed across him
that she had perhaps taken the right path, that her tears
would cure her of her terrors, and he shuddered at the
prospect of being alone in his suffering, alone in his dismay.
He would have liked to have repented also, to have played
at least the comedy of remorse, as an experiment ; but the
necessary tears and the appropriate words would not come to
him. He then returned to his violent conduct, shaking
Th^rese to irritate her and drive her back into his own
furious ways. The y6ung woman made a point of remaining
THERESE RAQUIN. 225
inert, of replying to his angry ories with tearful submission,
of growing more and more humble and repentant in propor-
tion to his roughness. Laurent, in consequence, became
quite beside himself. To bring his passion to a climax
Therese would always wind up with a panegyric of Camille,
and a display of all his virtues.
" He was good," she would say, " and we must have been
cruel indeed to attack that kind heart which had never
nourished an evil thought."
" He was good," jeered Laurent. " Oh ! yes, I know; you
mean he was a fool, don't you ? Have you forgotten 1 You
often told me his least word irritated you, that he could
never open his mouth without uttering some stupid remark.''
" You need not sneer. It needed but this, that you should
insult the memory of the man you murdered. You little
know the heart of woman, Laurent ; Camille loved me and
I loved him."
" You loved him. Well ! really, that is good. It was
doubtless because you loved your husband that you took me
for your lover. I recollect one day when you were resting
on my breast, that you said Camille disgusted you, for when
your fingers touched him, they seemed to sink into clay.
Oh ! I know why you loved me. You wanted stronger arms
to encircle you than that poor devil's."
" I loved him like a sister. He was my benefactress's
son, he had all the delicacy of weak natures, he was noble
and generous, obliging and loving. And we killed him, oh
heavens ! oh heavens ! "
She wept, she was overcome with emotion. Madame
Raquin, indignant at hearing praises of her son from such
polluted lips, cast bitter glances upon her. Laurent, power-
less against this torrent of tears, paced up and down,
meditating some effective means of stifling Therese's remorse.
All the good which he heard told of his victim ended by
226 THftRiSE RAQUIN.
causing him a poignant anxiety ; he was sometimes touched
by his wife's heart-rending accents, he began to believe in
the reality of Camille's virtues, and his fears redoubled.
But what stung him to the quick, and made him proceed to
violence, was the contrast the drowned man's widow drew
between her first and second husbands, always in favour of
"Ah ! yes," she would say, "he was better than you; I
only wish he were still alive, and you in his place, buried in
At first, Laurent would shrug his shoulders.
" Say what you will," continued she, excitedly, " perhaps
I did not love him when he was alive, but now I remember
what he was, and I love him. I love him, and I hate you ;
do you understand 1 As for you, you are a murderer."
" Will you hold your tongue ! " roared Laurent.
" And he is an innocent victim, a worthy man, killed by a
scoundrel. Oh ! you don't alarm me. You know well
enough you're a wretch, a brute, without heart or soul.
How can I possibly love you, covered, as you are, with
Camille's blood ? Camille was tenderness itself for me, and
I could kill you, do you hear ? if that could bring Camille to
life again, and give me back his love."
" Will you hold your tongue, you wretch 1 "
" Why should I hold my tongue ? I speak the truth.
I should be buying forgiveness at the price of your blood.
Ah ! how I suffer and weep ! It's my fault that this
monster has murdered my husband. I must go some night
and kiss the earth over his grave. That shall be my last
Laurent, intoxicated, driven to fury by the awful pictures
Therese' spread out before his eyes, rushed at her, knocked
her down, and held her beneath his knee, his fist raised.
"That's it," she cried, "strike me, kill me. Camille
THERESE RAQUIN. 227
never raised his hand against me ; but you, you're a
And Laurent, maddened by her words, shook her in his
rage, beat her, bruised her flesh with the blows of his
clinched fist. Twice he nearly strangled her. Th^rese
yielded to the blows; she keenly enjoyed being knocked
about ; she offered herself, abandoned herself, provoked her
husband to beat her more and more. This was another
remedy to neutralise her life's suffering ; she slept better at
night when she had been well thrashed in the evening.
Madame Eaquin tasted an exquisite delight when Laurent
thus dragged her niece about the floor, bruising her body
The murderer's existence became unbearable ever since
the day when the infernal notion entered Therese's'head to
repent, and to mourn aloud for Camille. From that
moment the wretched man lived constantly with his victim ;
every hour he had to hear his wife praising and regretting
her first husband. The most trivial circumstance became a
pretext : Camille did this, Camille did that, Camille had
such a quality, Camille loved in such a manner. Always
Camille, always melancholy reflections bemoaning Camilla's
death. Therese employed all her spiteful powers in enhanc-
ing this torture which she inflicted on Laurent in self-defence.
She went into the minutest details, she related the hundred
and one trifles of his childhood with regretful sighs, and thus
mingled recollections of the victim with every act of daily
life. The spectre which was already haunting the house was
now introduced openly. He sat on the chairs, took his place
at the table, lay on the bed, made use of the furniture and
of the various things lying about. Laurent could not touch
a fork, a brush, no matter what, without being reminded by
There~se that Camille had touched it before him. Inces-
santly knocking up against the man he had killed, the
228 TH^RilSE RAQUIN.
murderer at last experienced a singular sensation, which
nearly took away his senses ; he imagined, from being con-
stantly compared with Camille, and from using all the
household belongings which Camille had used, that he was
Camille, that he had become identified with his victim.
His brain reeled, and then he rushed on his wife to silence
her, to stop the utterance of words which drove him to the
verge of delirium. All their quarrels ended in blows.
There came a day when Madame Raquin thought to escape
the sufferings she was enduring by starving herself to death.
She had reached the end of her courage, she could no longer
bear the martyrdom imposed upon her by the constant pre-
sence of the murderers ; she hoped to find a supreme solace
in death. Her anguish became keener day by day, as
Therese kissed her, and Laurent took her in his arms and
carried her like a child. She resolved to escape these
caresses which filled her with a horrible disgust. As she
had not sufficient life left in her to avenge her son, she pre-
ferred being quite dead and leaving in the hands of these
wretches nothing but a corpse, which would feel nothing,
and with which they could do what they liked.
For two days she refused all nourishment, using her
remaining strength in closing her teeth, spitting out what
they succeeded in placing in her mouth. Therese was in
despair ; she wondered where she could cry and repent
when her aunt should be gone. She held interminable
monologues with her to prove that it was her duty to live ;
she wept, she even grew angry, showing her former evil
temper, and opening the paralytic's jaws like one opens
those of an animal which seeks to resist. Madame Raquiu
held her own. It was an odious struggle.
Laurent remained neutral and indifferent. He was sur-
prised at Therese's anxiety to prevent the suicide. Now
that the presence of the old woman was useless to them, he
longed for her death. He would not have killed her, but
230 THERESE RAQUIN.
as she wished to die, he did not see the necessity of balking
" Leave her alone ! " he would cry to his wife. " It'll be
a good riddance. Perhaps we shall be happier when she's
This advice, often repeated before her, produced a
strange sensation in Madame Kaquin. She feared that
Laurent's hope might be realized, that after her death the
household would taste some calm and happy hours. She
told herself she was cowardly to die, and wrong to go before
witnessing the end of the fulsome adventure. Not till
then should she join Camille in the tomb and tell him :
" You are avenged." The prospect of suicide became dis-
tasteful to her when she thought of leaving this world in
ignorance of the end ; there, in the cold and silence of the
grave, she would slumber, eternally tormented by uncer-
tainty as to the ultimate punishment of his executioners.
She felt that to sleep the calm sleep of death, she must doze
off in the poignant joy of vengeance, carrying with her a
dream of satisfied hate, a dream which should last through
eternity. So she took the nourishment which her niece
offered, she consented to live on.
Besides, she plainly saw matters were hastening to a
climax. Each day the position of the pair was becoming
more strained, more intolerable. A fatal crisis which would
end all was imminent. Every hour Therese and Laurent
threatened each other with increasing defiance. It was no
longer in the night alone that they suffered from being to-
gether ; their entire days were now passed in painful
anxiety, in heartrending attacks. Everything Ibecame a
cause of terror and suffering. They lived in a hell, bruis-
ing each other, embittering every word and every action,
seeking to push each other into the gulf they felt- yawning
beneath their feet, and both stumbling in the attempt.
THERESE VIOLENTLY ADMINISTERING FOOD TO MADAME RA&UIN.
THiJRfiSE RAQUIN. 231
The thought of a mutual separation had come to both of
them. They had each dreamt of flying, of getting some re-
pose, far from this Passage du Pont-Neuf, where the dirt
and damp seemed part of their desolate life. But they
could not, they durst not escape. To cease torturing each
other, to cease suffering mutually seemed to them impossible.
They possessed the obstinacy of cruelty and hatred. A sort
of repulsion and attraction parted them and kept them to-
gether at the same time; they experienced the peculiar
sensation of two people, who after a quarrel wish to separate,
and who yet invariably return to abuse each other afresh.
And then there were material obstacles to their flight, the
poor paralytic to be nursed, and the Thursday evening
guests to be satisfied. If they disappeared, suspicion might
be aroused ; then they fancied themselves pursued and
guillotined. And they remained through cowardice, they
remained and lived miserably on amid the horror of their
When Laurent was away in the morning and after-
noon, Therese would wander from the dining-room to the
shop, restless and troubled, not knowing how to fill the void
which she felt daily increasing in her being. She was idle
when neither weeping at Madame Eaquin's feet, nor writh-
ing beneath her husband's insults and blows. As soon as
she found herself alone in the shop, a torpor overpowered
her, she gazed vacantly at the people who passed along the
dark and dirty Passage, she grew sad unto death in the
depths of this black hole, stinking like a grave-yard. She
ended by inviting Suzanne to come and pass long days with
her, hoping that that poor creature's calm and gentle pre-
sence would sooth her.
Suzanne joyfully accepted the invitation ; she had always
loved her with a sort of respectful affection ; she had often
longed to come to sit and work with her while Olivier was
232 THfiRfiSE RAQUIN.
at his office. She brought her embroidery, and took
Madame Raquin's empty place behind the counter.
From that time, Th6r£se began to neglect her aunt a
little. She went less frequently to weep at her knees and
to kiss her lifeless face. She had a fresh occupation. She
tried to interest herself in Suzanne's quiet chatter concern-
ing her household and all the trifles of her monotonous life.
This drew her thoughts from herself. She sometimes found
herself amused with the nonsense, and this caused her to
smile bitterly when alone.
She gradually lost all the customers from the shop.
Since her aunt had been laid up in her arm-chair, she en-
tirely neglected the goods, leaving them to rot in dust and
damp. A mouldy smell pervaded the air, cobwebs hung
from the ceiling, and the floor was never swept. But what
really banished the customers was the strange reception they
sometimes met with from Thirfese. When she was upstairs,
ill-treated by Laurent or prostrated with terror, and the
shop bell sounded imperiously, she had to come down,
almost without taking time to wipe away her tears and
smooth her hair; she then served the waiting customer
most carelessly, sometimes even avoiding the trouble of
doing so at all, by calling from the top of the stairs that
she was out of the article required. These disobliging ways
were not calculated to retain custom. The humble work- •
women of the neighbourhood, used to Madame Raquin's
gentle manners, fled before her niece's rude ways and
wild appearance. When The"rese had Suzanne as a com-
panion the defection was complete : the two young women
unwilling to be interrupted in their gossip, showed plainly
that they wished to get rid of the few remaining purchasers.
After this, the haberdashery business did not contribute a sou
to the household expenses; aud it therefore became necessary
to draw on the capital of forty and odd thousand francs.
LAURENT PROVOKED BY THERESE KICKS HER SAVAGELY.
TH&R:feSE RAQUIN. 233
Occasionally Therese absented herself for the whole
afternoon. No one knew where she went. She had doubt-
less fostered this intimacy with Suzanne, not only for the
sake of her company, but also to leave her to take charge of
the shop when she was away. When, in the evening, she re-
turned, exhausted, with dark circles round her eyes, she found
Olivier's little wife behind the counter, smiling vaguely, in
the same position in which she had left her five hours earlier.
About five months after her marriage, Therese had a
fright. She found herself to be in the family way. With-
out being able to explain her feeling to herself, the idea of
having a child by Laurent, seemed to her monstrous. She
feared vaguely she might be delivered of a drowned child.
She seemed already to feel within her the icy touch of a
soft putrid corpse. At all costs, she resolved to get rid of
this burden which froze her life, and which she could no
longer endure. She said nothing to her husband, and, one
day, after cruelly provoking him, she stood doggedly before
him to receive a kick from his uplifted foot. She allowed
herself to be kicked thus, sufficient to have killed her.
The next day she had a miscarriage.
Laurent, for his part, led a frightful existence. The days
seemed to him insupportably long ; each one filled with the
same anguish, the same heavy worries, which overwhelmed
him at stated hours with a crushing regularity and mo-
notony. His life dragged on, terrified each night with the
memory of the past day, and the anticipation of the morrow.
He knew that, in future, all his days would be alike,
that all would bring him similar suffering. And he saw
before him a vista of weeks, months, years, which awaited
him, dark and implacable, following each other, closing in
round him, and stifling him little by little. When the
future is hopeless, the present becomes painfully bitter.
Laurent no longer revolted, he was advancing, and abandon-
234 TH^RilSE EAQUIN.
ing himself to the stagnation which was already enveloping
his whole being. Idleness was killing him. In the morn-
ing he went out, not knowing where to go, disgusted at the
thought of doing what he had done the previous day, and
forced against his will to do the same again. He went
mechanically, and through habit, to his studio. This room
with its grey walls, from which one could only see a square
patch of sky, filled him with a gloomy sadness. He flung
himself on his divan, his arms hanging down, his mind
stultified. Moreover, he no longer dared to use his brushes.
He had made fresh attempts, and each time Camille's face
mocked him from the canvas. To save himself from goiug
mad, he ended by throwing his box of colours in a corner,
and imposing upon himself absolute idleness. This enforced
idleness fell upon him with incredible weight.
In the afternoon, he anxiously pondered what he should
do. He loitered half-an-hour on the pavement in the Rue
Mazarine, consulting himself, meditating how he could pass
the time. He rejected the idea of returning to his studio,
he always decided to go down the Rue Guenegaud, then to
walk along the quays. And he went on until evening,
stupefied, shivering suddenly whenever he looked at the
Seine. In his studio or in the streets, his dejection was the
same. The next day, the same thing began again, he spent
the morning on the divan, and he dragged himself along the
quays in the afternoon. This lasted for months, and it
might go on for years.
Sometimes Laurent remembered that he had murdered
Camille in order to be idle ever after, and he was aston-
ished, now that he was doing nothing, to endure such
misery. He wanted to force himself to be happy.
He assured himself he was wrong to be miserable, that he
had just attained supreme felicity, which consists in folding
one's arms, and that he was a fool not to taste this felicity
THtiKfcSE RAQUIN. 235
in peace. Bui his arguments fell before facts. He was
forced to confess at heart, that idleness increased his
torments, by giving him every hour of his life in which to
think of his despair, and to measure its incurable bitterness.
Utter indolence, that brute existence for which he had
longed, was his punishment. Sometimes he ardently
wished for an occupation which would deliver him from his
thoughts. Then he gave himself up, he sank beneath the
weight of the blind fate which bound his limbs the more
effectually to crush him.
In all truth, he only felt relief when beating The"rese of an
evening. This released him from his torpid grief.
His most acute suffering, both moral and physical, came
from Camille's bite on his neck. Sometimes he imagined
the wound to be covering his whole frame. If he managed
for a few moments to forget the past, a sharp prick he
fancied he felt, recalled the murder to his mind and body.
He could not stand before a mirror, without seeing the
phenomenon which he had so often noticed, and which always
terrified him : under the influence of his emotion, the blood
rushed to his neck, and deeply coloured the scar, which
began smarting and throbbing. This sort of living wound,
waking up, blushing, biting him at the least emotion,
alarmed and tortured him. He finished by believing the
drowned man's teeth had inserted there some animal which
was devouring him. The portion of neck bearing the scar no
longer seemed to belong to his body ; it seemed a strange
bit of flesh which had been fastened there, like some
poisoned meat which was rotting his muscles. He thus
for ever carried about with him the living, devouring
memory of his crime. Therese, whenever he was beating
her, sought to scratch him at that place ; she sometimes
dug her nails into the spot and made him howl with pain.
Ordinarily, she pretended to weep so soon as she saw the
236 TH&RESE RAQUIN.
bite, in order to make it more intolerable to Laurent. All
the revenge she took for his brutality, was to torture him
by means of this bite.
He had often been tempted, when shaving, to cut his
neck, and thus obliterate the marks of the drowned man's
teeth. Standing before the looking-glass, when he raised
his chin and perceived the red scar under the white lather
of soap, he grew furious, and snatched up the razor to hack
at the flesh. But the touch of the cold blade against his
skin always recalled him to himself ; he turned faint, he was
forced to sit down, and to wait until his quieted cowardice
permitted him to finish shaving.
In the evening, he only emerged from his torpor to burst
into blind and puerile anger. When tired of quarrelling
with Therese and beating her, he vented his fury like a child
by kicking the walls, he sought something to smash. That
consoled him. He nursed an special hatred far the tabby
cat, Francois, who, the moment he appeared, took refuge on
the paralytic's knees. If Laurent had not yet killed him,
it was because he was literally afraid to seize hold of him.
The cat glared at him with great round eyes, of fiendish
fixity. It was these eyes, always turned on him, which ex-
asperated the young man ; he asked himself what was written
in those eyes which never left him ; he ended by having
regular frights, imagining the most absurd things. When
sitting at table, at no matter what moment, in a long inter-
val of silence, or in the heat of an argument, if he turned
round suddenly and found Francois examining him with a
heavy, implacable gaze, he turned pale, grew restless, and
was nearly shouting to the cat : " Speak out, and tell me
what you want with me." He seized, with frightened joy,
every opportunity of squeezing Francois's tail or one of his
paws, and then the poor animal's mewing filled him with
vague terror, as though he had heard the cry of pain of a
LAUKENT KIDDING HIMSELF OF THE CAT FRAN?OIS.
THERESE RAQUIN. 237
human being. Laurent was literally afraid of Frangois.
Especially since the latter had taken to living on the stricken
woman's knees, as in the heart of an impregnable fortress,
from which he could, with impunity, rivet his green eyes on
his enemy. Camille's murderer traced a vast resemblance
between this angry beast and the paralytic. He felt sure
the cat, as well as Madame Eaquin, was aware of the crime,
and would denounce it, if ever he gained the power of
At last, one evening, Frangois glared so stolidly at Lau-
rent, that the latter, irritated beyond measure, resolved to
put an end to it. He opened wide the dining-room window,
and caught up the cat by the skin of the neck. Madame
Eaquin understood ; two large tears rolled down her cheeks.
The cat began to swear, to struggle, trying to turn and bite
Laurent's hand. But the latter stuck to him; he swung
him round two or three times, and then flung him with the
full force of his arm against the great, black wall opposite.
Frangois was crushed nearly flat, his back broken, and he
fell on the glass roof of the Passage. All the night through
were heard the dying moans of the miserable beast, as he
tried to drag himself along the gutter, with his broken spine.
Madame Raquin mourned that night for Frangois almost as
much as she had wept for Camille ; Therese had a violent
fit of hysterics. The cat's cries of pain were frightful in the
darkness, under the windows.
Laurent had ere long a fresh source of anxiety, tie was
alarmed at certain changes in his wife's demeanour.
Therfese became gloomy, taciturn. She no longer over-
whelmed Madame Raquin with avowals of repentance, with
kisses of gratitude. She resumed towards the paralytic her
cold cruel manner, her selfish indifference. It seemed as
though she had tried remorse, and not finding in it the con-
solation she sought, she had turned to another remedy.
238 THERESE RAQUIN.
tier sadness was doubtless the result of her vain search for
peace. She now contemplated the impotent woman, with a
sort of disdain, as a useless thing which could no longer even
serve as a consolation. She grudgingly provided her with
the bare necessaries which would keep her from starving.
From this moment she became silent and dejected, as she
slowly crawled about the house. She was constantly absent
from home, sometimes four and five times a week.
These changes surprised and alarmed Laurent. He sup-
posed that remorse, taking a fresh shape with The>£se, was
now causing this gloomy weariness which he noticed in her.
This worry disquieted him much more than the demonstra-
tive despair with which she overwhelmed him in earlier
days. She now said nothing, she no longer quarrelled with
him, she seemed entirely self-contained. He would have
preferred her giving vent to her misery sooner than see her
thus wrapt up in herself. He feared that some day the
anguish would stifle her, and that to obtain relief she would
be forced to go and tell all to a priest or a magistrate.
Therese's numerous flittings then obtained an alarming
signification in his eyes. He fancied she was seeking a con-
fidant away from home, and was preparing to betray him.
Twice he sought to follow her, but lost her in the streets.
He set himself to watch her again. A fixed idea possessed
him : Th^rese, unable longer to bear her mental misery, was
about to reveal everything, and he must be in time to gag
her, and force the confession down her throat.
One morning, Laurent, instead of going to his studio, took
up a position in a wine-shop, which formed one of the corners
of the Rue Guehegaud, facing the Passage. There he ex-
amined all the people who emerged on to the pavement of
the Rue Mazarine. He was watching for Therese. The pre-
vious day, the young woman had expressed her intention of
going out early and probably not returning home before
Laurent waited a good half hour. He knew his wife
always went by way of the Rue Mazarine ; for a moment,
however, he feared she had escaped him by taking the Rue
de Seine. He had an idea of going back to the Passage and
hiding in the alley of the house itself. As he was growing
impatient, he saw Therese walk quickly out of the Passage.
She was arrayed in bright colours, and, for the first time, he
noticed she was dressed like a fast woman, with a long train ;
she traipsed along the pavement, alluringly looking at the
men, holding her skirt up in front with her hand, high
enough to display all the front of her legs, her laced boots
and her white stockings. She went up the Rue Mazarine.
Laurent followed her.
The weather was warm, the young woman walked slowly,
her head raised, her hair hanging down her back. The men
who had stared her in the face turned round to look after
her. She turned down the Rue de l'^3cole-de-M^decine.
Laurent was terrified ; he knew there was a police-station
somewhere in the vicinity ; he told himself that he oould no
240 THERESE RAQUIN.
longer doubt that his wife was going to give him up to jus-
tice. He made up his mind to spring upon her, if she crossed
the threshold of the police office, to entreat her or beat her
and force her to silence. At a street corner, she looked at
a constable who was passing, and he trembled for fear she
should speak to him ; he hid in a doorway, seized with a
sudden fear of immediate arrest, if he showed himself. This
walk was a real agony for him ; while his wife was showing
herself off in the sunshine, her skirts sweeping the pavement,
careless and bold, he was following behind her, pale and
trembling, feeling all was over, that he could never escape,
and that he would be guillotined. Every fresh step she
took seemed to him a step nearer to his doom. Fear gave
him a sort of blind conviction, the young woman's slightest
movement added to his certainty. He followed her, he went
where she went, as one goes to punishment.
Suddenly, on turning into the old Place Saint-Michael,
Therese went towards a cafe which was then at the corner
of the Eue Monsieur-le-Prince. She sat down among a group
of women and students, at one of the tables out on the
pavement. She shook hands familiarly with all these people.
Then she ordered a glass of absinthe.
She seemed quite at her ease. She chatted with a fair
young man, who had evidently been waiting for her there
some time. Two girls came leaning over the table where
she was seated, and addressed her familiarly with their
hoarse voices. Women were smoking cigarettes close to
her, men were kissing the women openly, before the passers-
by, who did not take the least notice. Coarse jests, rude
laughter were heard by Laurent, who had remained motion-
less on the opposite side of the Place under a gateway.
When Therese had finished her absinthe, she rose up,
took the fair young man's arm, and went down the Rue
de la Harpe. Laurent followed them as far as the Eue
THEEESE'S LOOSE BEHAVIOUK AT THE CAFE IN THE PLACE
SAINT-MICHEL. p. 840.
THERESE RAQT7IN. 241
Saint-Andr^-des-Arts. There be saw them enter a furnished
lodging-house. He stood in the middle of the road, looking
up at the front of the house. His wife appeared for a
moment at an open window on the second floor. Then he
fancied he could see the fair young man's arms creeping
round Therese's waist. The window closed with a bang.
Laurent understood. Without waiting longer, he quietly
turned back, reassured, happy.
" Bah ! " he said to himself, walking towards the quays,
"that's better. She has an occupation now, she is not
meditating mischief. She's a devilish sight sharper than
What surprised him was that the idea of seeking consola-
tion in vice had not first come to himself. He might have
found in it a cure for his fears. It had not occurred to
him because his flesh was numbed, and he no longer felt
the slightest desire for debauchery. His wife's infidelity
left him perfectly calm. He felt no revolt of blood or
nerves at the thought that she was in the arms of another.
On the contrary, it amused him ; he felt as if he had been
following some friend's wife, and he laughed at the trick
this wife was playing her husband. ThereBe had become
alienated from him to such a point that he no longer felt
her living in his breast, and he would have sold and
delivered her a hundred times for one hour's peace of mind.
He strolled along, revelling in the sudden and happy
reaction which had changed his terror into peace. He
could have thanked his wife for seeking a lover, when he
thought her in quest of a commissary of police. This
adventure had an unexpected issue which gave him a
pleasant surprise. The clearest thing he saw in all this was
that he had been wrong to tremble, and that he ought also
to try if vice would do him any good by drowning his
242 THERESE RAQUIN.
The same evening, Laurent, on his way back to the shop,
decided that he would demand a few thousand francs from
his wife, and use the necessary pressure to get them. He
thought how much vice costs a man, he vaguely envied girls
who can sell themselves. He waited patiently for Therese,
who had not yet come in. When she arrived he dissembled,
saying not a word of the morning's discovery. She was not
quite sober. From her disarranged garments came that
mixed odour of stale tobacco and liquor which pervades
smoking-rooms. Tired out, her face streaked with livid
blotches, she staggered, drowsy from the shameful fatigue
of the day.
The dinner was a silent one. Therese could not eat. At
dessert, Laurent planted his elbows on the table, and de-
liberately asked her for five thousand francs.
" No," she answered, curtly. " If I let you have your
way, you would bring us to penury. Don't you know our
position 1 We're going straight to ruin."
"That may be," replied he, coolly, "I don't care, I must
have some money."
"No, a thousand times no ! You gave up your appoint-
ment, the shop is bringing in nothing, and we can't live on
the interest of my dowry. Every day I have to encroach
upon the capital to maintain you, and give you the hundred
francs a month you forced from me. You sha'n't have a
sou more — do you hear 1 It's no use."
" Think it over, don't refuse like that. I tell you I want
five thousand francs, and I mean to have them. You will
give me them all the same."
This cool obstinacy irritated Therese, and completed her
" Ah, I know ! " she cried. " You wish to end as you
began. It's four years now that we've maintained you.
You only came among us for what you could get, to eat and
THiEKfcSE RAQUIN. 243
drink; and, ever since, you have been living upon us.
You're a gentleman who does nothing — a gentleman who's
arranged so as to live at my expense, with his arms folded.
No, you shall have nothing, not a sou. Shall I tell you ?
Well, then, you're a — "
And she said the word. Laurent burst out laughing, and
shrugged his shoulders. He merely replied :
" You learn elegant words in the company you now
This was the only allusion he made to Therese's amours.
She raised her head sharply, and said in a sour tone of
" At any rate, J don't frequent the society of murderers."
Laurent turned very pale. He kept silent for a moment,
his eyes fixed on his wife ; then, in a trembling voice :
" Listen to me, my girl," he resumed, " don't let us
quarrel ; it will do- neither of us any good. I'm at the end
of my courage. It will be as well for us to understand each
other, if we would avoid worse consequences. I've asked
you for five thousand francs because I want them. I may
even tell you that I intend to employ them in ensuring our
He smiled strangely, and went on :
' Come, think it over, give me your last word."
" I've already thought it over," answered the young
woman. " I've given you my last word, you sha'n't have a
Her husband jumped up savagely. She feared he was
going to beat her ; she shrank into herself, resolved not to
yield beneath the blows. But Laurent did not even ap-
proach her, he contented himself with coldly announcing
that he was tired of life, and that he was going to confess
the murder to the nearest commissary of police.
" You drive me to extremities," he said, " you make my life
244 THER&SE RAQUIN.
unbearable. I prefer to end it. We shall be tried and con-
demned together. That's all."
" Do you think you alarm me ? " cried his wife. " I'm as
tired of life as you are. If you don't go to the commissary
of police I will. Oh ! yes, I'm ready to follow you to the
scaffold, I'm not a coward like you. Come along with me to
She had risen, and was already on her way to the stair-
"All right," faltered Laurent, " let's go together."
When they had reached the shop, they looked at one
another, anxious and alarmed. They felt as though they
had just been nailed to the spot. The few seconds that had
elapsed while they came downstairs had sufficed to show
them, in a flash of reason, the consequences of a confession.
They saw rapidly and clearly, and all together, the police,
the prison, the assize court, and the guillotine. And, in the
innermost recesses of their beings, they felt misgivings, they
were tempted to fall on their knees, and entreat each other
to stop, to reveal nothing. Fear and embarrassment held
them two or three minutes, silent and motionless. Therese
was the first to pluck up courage, to speak and to yield.
" After all," she said, " I'm very stupid to refuse you this
money. You're sure to spend it for me, sooner or later. I
may as well let you have it at once."
She did not seek to disguise her defeat. She sat down at
the counter, and wrote out a cheque for five thousand francs,
which Laurent could cash at a bank. No further mention
was made of the commissary that evening.
As soon as Laurent had the gold in his pocket, he took to
drink and women, and led a noisy dissipated life. He
stayed out till morning, slept all day, went about at night,
tried to excite himself, and to escape reality. But he only
succeeded in sinking lower still. When revelry was loud
THERESE RAQUIN. 245
around him, he heard the terrible silence within ; when a
mistress kissed him, when emptying his glass, he only found
at the end of his debauchery, a heavy weight of sadness.
He was no longer adapted for a lewd and gluttonous life ;
his frozen frame, rigid so to say internally, grew weary of
kisses and intoxication. Surfeited beforehand, he could not
succeed in heating his imagination, or exciting his senses or
his appetites. He suffered a little more from making the
effort, and that was the only result. Then when he re-
turned home and saw Madame Raquin and Therese, his
fatigue made him the prey of frightful fits of terror; he
would then take an oath to stay at home, and endure his
suffering in order to get used to it and subdue it.
Therese now went less and less from home. Eor a month
she lived, like Laurent, on the streets, in the caKs. She
would come in for a few minutes, towards evening, attend
to Madame Eaquin's wants, put her to bed, and sally forth
again until the following morning. On one occasion she and
her husband were four days without seeing each other.
Then followed a deep disgust ; she felt that vice was not
more successful than the comedy of remorse. She had in
vain visited all the low haunts in the Quartier Latin, she
had in vain led a noisy, dissolute life. Her nerve was gone ;
debauchery, animal pleasures no longer affected her suffi-
ciently to chase away memory. She was like one of those
drunkards, whose scorched palate remains numbed beneath
the fire of the most burning stimulants. She was inert in
her lewdness ; when in company of her lovers she only felt
bored and weary. So she gave them up, telling herself they
were useless to her. Then followed a despairing idleness
which kept her in the house, unwashed, unkempt, ill dressed.
She neglected. her person in every way.
When the two murderers found themselves thus face to
face, wearied out, having exhausted every means of trying
216 THERESE RAQUIN.
to escape from each other, they understood that they had
no more power of resistance. Dissipation would have no
more to do with them, and had sent them back to their
sufferings. They were once more in the dark, damp house
in the Passage, they were as though immurred there for
evermore, for they had often tried to be free, but never had
they succeeded in loosing the bonds of blood which bound
them. They no longer thought of attempting the impossible
task. They were conscious of being so driven, crushed,
riveted together by fate that all further struggle would be
ridiculous. They resumed their existence in common, but
their hatred developed into fury.
The evening quarrels recommenced. Moreover, the shouts
and blows went on all day. To hatred was now added
mistrust, and the mistrust finished driving them mad.
They feared each other. The scene caused by the demand
for five thousand francs was soon repeated morning and
evening. Their fixed idea was that each would give the
other up to justice. They could think of nothing else.
When one of them said a word, or made a movement, the
other had visions of a visit to the commissary of police.
Then they fought or implored each other. In their anger
they shouted they were going to reveal everything, they
nearly drove one another mad with fright; then they
trembled, they humbled themselves, they promised, with
bitter tears, to keep silence. They suffered horribly, but
they lacked the courage to heal the wound by searing it
with a red-hot iron. If they held this threat of confession
over each other's head, it was simply as a mutual weapon of
self-defence, for they never would have had strength to
speak the word which would have purchased peace with
More than twenty times they went to the very door of
the police-station, one behind the other. First it was
THtfRfiSE RAQUIN. 247
Murent who would confess the murder, then it was Therese
who ran to give herself up. And they always joined each
other in the street, deciding to wait a little longer, after
exchanging recriminations and ardent entreaties.
Every fresh outburst left them more fierce and more
They watched each other from morning to night. Laurent
was for ever in the house in the Passage, and Therese never
let him out of her sight. Their suspicions, their dread of
mutual treachery, brought them more together, united them
in an atrocious intimacy. Never since their marriage had
they lived so closely attached to each other, and never had
they endured such torture. Notwithstanding the agony
they caused themselves, they never lost sight one of the
other ; they preferred to endure the most poignant suffer-,
ings rather than be separated for an hour. If Therese went
down into the shop, Laurent followed, for fear of her
chatting to a customer ; if Laurent stood at the door,
looking at the people passing along the Passage, Therese
came and stood by him, to see that he spoke to no one. On
the Thursday evenings, when their guests were assembled,
the murderers gazed supplicatingly at each other ; each
listened to the other with terror, fearing some sudden
avowal, giving a dangerously compromising meaning to half-
Such a hostile attitude could not be longer maintained.
Therese and Laurent simultaneously arrived at the determina-
tion to escape the consequences of their first crime by
committing a second. It was indispensable that one disap-
peared for the other to taste a moment's repose. This
thought came at the same time to each ; both felt the
pressing necessity of a separation, both wished the separa-
tion to be eternal. The murder they contemplated seemed
to them natural, fated, forcibly resulting from Camille's
248 TH^BfcSE RAQUIN.
murder. They did not even discuss it, they accepted the
project as the only means of safety. Laurent resolved to
kill Therese, because Therese was in his way, because she
could betray him with a word; and because she caused him
unbearable torments ; Therese resolved to kill Laurent for
the same, reasons.
The resolve to murder once fixed calmed them a little.
They made their arrangements. It is true they acted
feverishly, without .much prudence - they thought very
vaguely of the probable consequences of a murder committed
without ensuring flight and impunity. They felt an in-
vincible necessity for killing each other, they obeyed this
necessity like wild beasts. They would not have given
themselves up for their first crime, which they had concealed
so cleverly, yet they risked the guillotine in committing a
second, which they did not even seek to hide. They did
not even see this inconsistency in their conduct. They
simply settled that if they succeeded in escaping, they would
go and live abroad, after carrying off all the money.
Therese had, some fifteen or twenty days previously, with-
drawn the few thousand francs temaining of her dowry, and
kept the cash in a drawer, which Laurent knew of. They
did not for an instant trouble their heads as to what would
become ot Madame Eaquin.
Laurent had met, some few weeks before, one of his old
college mates, who was then studying with a celebrated
chemist who took a great interest in toxicology. This com-
rade had taken him &> the laboratory where he worked,
showing him the utensils, naming the drugs. One evening,
when he had decided on the murder, Laurent, as he saw
Therese drinking a glass of sugar and water, remembered
having noticed in the laboratory a little stone phial, contain-
ing prussic acid. Calling to mind what his friend had told
him of the terrible effects of this poison, which destroys life
THERESE RAQUIN. 249
and leaves little trace, he thought it was just the sort of
poison he wanted. The following day he succeeded in
escaping ; he paid a visit to his friend, and while his back
was turned, he stole the little stone phial.
The same day Therese took advantage of Laurent's
absence to have ground a large cook's knife which had been
used for cutting loaf sugar, and which was all blunt. She
hid the knife in a corner of the sideboard.
The following Thursday, the Raquins' party, as the guests
alway's called it, was more than usually gay. It lasted
until half-past eleven. Grivet, on leaving, said he had never
passed a more agreeable evening.
Suzanne, who was in the family way, talked incessantly
to The>ese of her pains aud her hopes. Therese seemed to
listen with great interest ; her eyes fixed, her lips tightly
closed, she bent her head from time to time ; her lowered
lashes seemed to cast a shadow over her face. Laurent, on his
side, paid a sustained attention to the twaddle of old Mi-
chaud Olivier. These gentlemen never ceased, and Grivet
could scarce get a word in edgeways between the father and
son. Besides, he felt a certain respect for them ; he admired
their conversation. On this particular evening, chatting
having superseded the usual game, he called out naively
that the police magistrate's stories amused him nearly as
much as a game of dominoes.
For the four years that the Michauds and Grivet had
spent their Thursday evenings at the Raquins', they had not
once tired of these monotonous gatherings which returned
with a wearisome regularity. Never had they once sus-
pected the drama which was enacting in this house, so gentle
and peaceful when they entered it. Olivier usually remarked
with a judicial pleasantry, that the dining-room smelt
honest. Grivet, not to be in the back-ground, had named
THERESE RAQTJIN. 251
it the Temple of Peace. Two or three times during the latter
days Therese had explained away the marks of blows which
discoloured her face by telling their guests that she had
had a fall. None of them moreover would have dreamt
these marks were made by Laurent's fist ; they were con-
vinced that their hosts' was a model household, all love and
The paralytic had never again attempted to reveal to
them the infamy concealed behind the dull quietude of the
Thursday evenings. Feeling, at sight of the murderers'
sufferings, that a crisis was imminent, hurried on by the fa-
tal succession of events, she came to the conclusion that the
sequel would work itself out without her interference. She
therefore remained passive, waiting for the consequences of
her son's murder to involve the death of the murderers. She
merely prayed to Heaven to grant her sufficient life to be
present at the violent catastrophe impending ; her last wish
was to feast her eyes on the spectacle of Laurent's and
Tbirese's death agonies.
On this evening, Grivet came and sat by her for a long
time chatting, and, as usual, asking questions and answer-
ing them. But he could not even succeed in gaining her eye.
When the clock chimed half-past eleven, the guests rose
"We are so comfortable here," said Grivet, "that we
forget to go."
" The fact is," added Michaud, " I'm never sleepy here,
though my usual hour is nine o'clock."
Olivier thought he ought to add his little joke.
" You see," he said, showing his yellow teeth, " there's
always an odour of honesty here : that's why one's so much
at one's ease."
Grivet, vexed at having been out-done, began to declaim,
with an emphasising gesture :
252 THERESE RAQUIN.
" This room is the Temple of Peace."
Meanwhile Suzanne was tying her bonnet strings, and
saying to Therese :
" I will come to-morrow morning, at nine o'clock."
" No," replied the young woman hurriedly, " don't come
before the afternoon. I shall probably be out in the morn-
She spoke with a strange, troubled voice. She accom-
panied the guests to the Passage. Laurent went down also,
holding the lamp. When they were alone, the husband and
wife both heaved a sigh of relief ; a blind impatience must
have been devouring them all the evening. Since the pre-
ceding day, they had been more gloomy and uneasy when
together. They avoided each other's gaze, and went up
silently. Their hands trembled convulsively, and Laurent
was obliged to place the lamp on the table, for fear of
Before putting Madame Kaquin to bed, they generally
tidied the dining-room, and prepared some sugar and water
for the night, thus hovering about the paralytic till all was
When they had come upstairs, on this occasion, they
seated themselves for a moment, with pale lips and uncer-
tain glance. After a short silence, Laurent asked as if wak-
ing from a reverie :
" Well ! aren't we going to bed ? "
" Yes, yes, we're going to bed," replied Therese, shivering,
as if she felt bitter cold.
She rose and took the water-bottle.
" Never mind that," called her husband, with a voice
which he strove to make natural, " I will prepare the sugar
and water. You can attend to your aunt."
He took the bottle from his wife's hands, and filled a glass
with water ; then, turning half round, he emptied the little
' ■ WII T|
»111* l:|j|t'.'| I ■■lill .:I|.i,iWf\j
THEEESE AND LAURENT BENT UPON TAKING EACH OTHER'S LIFE.
THERESE RAQUIN. 253
stone phial into the glass, at the same time adding a lump
Meanwhile, Therese was squatting down at the side-
board ; she had taken the large cook's knife from its hiding
place, and was trying to conceal it in one of the large
pockets, hanging from her waist-band.
At this moment, that strange sensation which warns of
approaching danger made the husband and wife turn their
heads instinctively. They looked at each other. Therese
saw the phial in Laurent's hand, and Laurent saw the flash
of the steel knife in the folds of Therese's skirt. They
examined each other thus for some seconds, cold and silent,
the husband near the table, the wife bending before the
sideboard. They understood. Each remained petrified at
finding the same thought in the other. Mutually reading
their secret design in their disturbed looks, they were over-
whelmed with pity and horror.
Madame Kaquin, feeling the crisis at hand, fixed upon
them a piercing and steady gaze.
Therese and Laurent suddenly broke into sobs. Wrought
up to the highest pitch of agony, they threw themselves
into each other's arms, weak as children. Some lingering
spark of softness and tenderness seemed to wake up in their
breast. They wept silently, thinking of the shameless life
they had led; and would go on leading, if they were
cowards enough to live. Then, at the remembrance of the
past, they felt so weary and disgusted with themselves, that
they had an immense craving for rest, for annihilation.
They exchanged a last look, a look of gratitude, for the
knife and the glass of poison. Therese took the glass,
drank half the contents and handed it to Laurent who
finished it in one draught. The effects were like lightning.
They fell down, one on the other, annihilated, finding at
last consolation in death. The wife's mouth fell on her
254 THERESE RAQUIN
husband's neck, and rested on the scar left by Camille's
The corpses remained all night on the dining-room floor
twisted, sprawling, lighted by yellow rays which the shade
of the lamp shed upon them. And for nearly twelve hours,
until near noon the following day, Madame Eaquin, silent and
^motionless, watched them at her feet, unable to satisfy her
eyes, crushing them beneath her heavy gaze.
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" This fact, to a French story-teller, appears, of course, a damnable restriction, and
M. Zola would probably decline to take au sdrievx any work produced under such unna-
tural conditions. Half of life is a sealed book to young unmarried ladies, and how can a
novel be worth anything that deals only with half of life? These objections are perfectly r
valid, and it may well be said that our English system is a good thing for virgins and boys, '
and a bad thing for the novel itself, when the novel is regarded as something more than a
simple jeu d'esprit, and considered as a composition that treats of life at large and helps
us to know."
This Edition is in Royal 8vo, and each Volume contains about 100 Engrav-
ings, half of which are page-size. The price is 7s. 6d. per volume,
Designs by bellenger, olairin, bertall, ANDRE GILL, &c.
2. THE "ASS0MM0IR."
Designs by BELLENGER, CLAIBIN, ANDES GILL, LELOIR, VIEBGE, &c.
3. PIPING HOT!
Designs by BERTALL, KAUFFMANN, and GEORGES BELLENGER
Mr. GEORGE MOORE'S REALISTIC NOVELS.
In small 8vo, price 3s. 6d.
Sixth and Revised Edition, with new and interesting preface,
1. A MUMMER'S WIFE, A Realistic Novel.
" A striking book, different in tone from current English fiction. The woman's char-
acter is a very powerful study. "— Atkaumm.
" ' A Mummer's Wife ' holds at present a unique position among English novels. It is
a conspicuous succqss of its kind." — Graphic.
Second Edition, in small Svo, price 3s. 6d.
2. A MODERN LOVER.
" Mr. Moore has a real power of drawing character, and some of his descriptive scenes
are capital,"— St. James's gazette.